Desperate to be Proven Wrong

Ever since the wee hours of the 19th of September 2014, I’ve been desperate to be proven wrong on some things.

After a few weeks of recovery, I attended The Big Debate at the Beacon in Greenock in the later months of 2014. Stuart McMillan, then-MP Iain McKenzie, and Mona Siddiqui were present. When discussion of the Smith Commission came up, Ms Siddiqui warned us that we shouldn’t “go into something expecting to be betrayed,” that we should have good faith that the parties of Westminster would listen to Scotland. I knew then that we shouldn’t, because how many times has Lucy snatched away Charlie Brown’s football before now?

All through the referendum campaign, I didn’t think about what would happen with a No vote. Then I had to deal with what happened, and all the things that were lurking the back of my mind came flooding out. And in every single case, I was desperate to be wrong.

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Who Decides?

Our membership of the European Union is a decision we take as the United Kingdom, and that’s why, in the referendum, every vote counts the same. We don’t count them in constituencies, we don’t count them in districts, every vote’s the same whether it’s in Stornoway or St. Ives. It’s a decision for all the people of the United Kingdom, and we should take it on the merits of the European Union Debate.
Liam Fox

I grappled with this question when I was Environment Secretary. I would talk to my opposite number, Richard Lochhead, and he would sometimes come to Brussels and we would discuss the matter in question beforehand. However, the position always was, and remains to this day, that it is the United Kingdom as one country that is negotiating.
Hilary Benn

We must leave the EU as one country not just because it preserves the Union but because it is the best option for jobs, businesses and trade across the UK.
Stephen Kerr

So did London vote to Remain but that is irrelevant as it was a national UK decision in which the majority voted for Brexit
Lord John Kilcoony

We voted in the referendum as one country, and we need to respect it as one country.
Dominic Raab

We entered the EU as one country and we will leave as one country, whatever the European Commission might desire.
Jacob Rees-Mogg

That is a very good point, we voted as one country.
Kwasi Kwarteng

It is important that we now move forward together as one country, very clear in what we want to see in our future relationship with the European Union, and that we go into the negotiations with that confidence.
Theresa May

“The UK voted as one county, the UK will leave as one country.”

This is a common refrain we hear – usually, but not exclusively, from those advocating to leave – when one brings up the fact that no less than two of the four constituent nations of the United Kingdom voted to remain. This is simply because the huge population difference between England and the other three means that even a mere 53% vote in favour of leaving in one nation completely overruled the 55% and 62% votes in favour of remaining in the other two.

But who, exactly, decided that this should be the case?

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Whenever We Dream

I, like other independence supporters, am of the opinion that a referendum on Scottish Independence needs to be held before the UK leaves the European Union. Others don’t necessarily agree – as is their right – such as Tommy Sheppard MP, who advised waiting until after the next Scottish Parliament elections to secure an “unconditional” mandate in his widely acclaimed Thomas Muir lecture. Two things should be noted: firstly, that he was giving his personal opinion; secondly, and most importantly, that he acknowledged that “This is what it looks like now – it might be different next week” from his perspective. Given what’s happened in the past year, his stance could change significantly, as Robin McAlpine’s did post-EU Referendum.

Here’s why I don’t favour post-2021.

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I Wish I Could Understand It

I wish I could understand pro-independence folk voting for Jeremy Corbyn’s party. Really, I do. I know more than a few people personally who staunchly support independence, but who wanted to support the last great hope of the British Left – and so, voted for his candidate. I even remember this back in the 2015 General Election campaign, where folk I know who were deeply involved in RIC, the SSP, and non-party initiatives told me they would’ve voted for a socialist candidate with a red rosette.

I’ve thought about it for months, now. I still don’t get it. Put aside the fundamental issue of independence (or even respecting the mandate of the Scottish Parliament to even hold a referendum, let alone the notion of independence itself) for me, and there are still so many dealbreakers. The party is committed to renewal of nuclear weapons – dealbreaker. The party is committed to a complete UK-wide withdrawal from the European Union despite Scotland, Northern Ireland, & Gibraltar voting to stay – dealbreaker. The party refuses to adopt even the extreme compromise of Single Market Membership & retention of Free Movement – dealbreaker. And that’s not even considering the fact Corbyn’s party will stop at nothing to destroy the SNP, even if it costs them a shot at government.

I mean, look at this. For God’s sake.

Wings provided a very short and concise piece of advice for Mr Corbyn, but there’s one problem: Mr Corbyn’s party are 3rd in all 13 Scottish seats currently under occupation by Theresa May’s party. Of those 13 seats, a paltry 3 of them appear in the 150 best shots for a Corbyn gain:

Renfrewshire East, Scotland: 7,150 majority, 6.65% swing to win

Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock, Scotland: 7,526 majority, 10.28% swing to win

Aberdeen South, Scotland: 9,603 majority, 10.91% swing to win

All but two of the UK Government Party-held seats in Scotland require a greater than 10% swing to win. Mr Corbyn’s party needs 325 MPs to vote for him to become Prime Minister. As Wings says, even if you replace every single SNP MP with one from Mr Corbyn’s party, his net gain is 0. Unlike David Cameron’s party devouring their erstwhile coalition partners, Corbyn taking SNP seats cannot provide him with a majority, be it the 18 marginals, or even all 35. Even taking every single seat in Scotland would not be enough for an overall majority, and would rely upon a pact with the decidedly unreliable Coalition Party – which neither side is remotely interested in.

Is there anywhere – anywhere at all – that Mr Corbyn could find more seats?

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The Downside Up

I had this election all wrong. It seems so obvious in retrospect.

This was never about the EU negotiations, of course – though this result undoubtedly wrecks what little clout the UK Government had. It may have been about the Prime Minister destroying Jeremy Corbyn and his party for a generation or more, with the might of the British Establishment brought to bear, even though a majority is a majority, which they already had. A more cynical explanation could be that it was to dodge the then-incoming election fraud allegations. What I didn’t realise is that this election was most assuredly about crippling the SNP – and stopping a second independence referendum.

Consider: how many Labour heavyweights were ousted last night? I can’t think of a single one. Then consider the SNP figures we lost. How many seats did the Tories lose compared to the SNP? They lost 12 to the SNP’s 21. How was it that, in a UK General Election, a party contesting only 59 seats lost more than a party contesting over 600?

Well, it makes sense once you realise that Labour weren’t the target in this election – it was the SNP all along.

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This Election Is A National Emergency

You might not know it from some of my posts, but I’m an eternal optimist. Some say there are people out there who would never vote for independence: that they either identify too strongly with their British identity to even consider a vote that they feel could jeopardise it, or because they think Scotland is incapable of making a success of what literally hundreds of other countries around the world do right now, or simply because they believe themselves to be “anti-nationalist.” I refuse to believe that anyone can be immovably anti-Independence, any more than anyone can be immovably pro-Independence. We’ve already seen movement from both sides – people I could’ve sworn would never turn suddenly joining the SNP, and others who seem hell-bent on undoing decades of struggle for a cause we used to share.

Yes, of course it’s more useful – in a cold, tactical sense – to go to the undecideds and “soft” electorate on both sides. All we need is another few hundred thousand more than the last official record. But I worry about those we write off as inconvertible – those who we view as lost to the clutches of a mad party which has taken leave of any sense they had after the chaos of the EU Referendum result. They are going to shape the future of these islands.

This election is not like others that have come before. It is not a matter of parties, of policies, of the nuts and bolts of democratic governance. It is nothing less than a national emergency – a keyframe of the story of the 21st Century. It’s a moment that we Scots will, as ever, only be able to significantly alter in the event of a close contest. We have a way out. But what of our fellow Britons?

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A Few Thoughts On What In Blazes Is Going On

In fierce anguish & quenchless flames
To the desarts and rocks He ran raging
To hide, but He could not: combining
He dug mountains & hills in vast strength,
He piled them in incessant labour,
In howlings & pangs & fierce madness
Long periods in burning fires labouring
Till hoary, and age-broke, and aged,
In despair and the shadows of death.
– William Blake, depicting post-Brexit Britain (probably) in The Book of Urizen

You know what? Forget my worries about being a Cassandra. I’m just going to call it like I see it. World’s mad enough as it is.

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May, Be Just – For Sure

This week, the Scottish Parliament will debate a motion to request a Section 30 order from the UK Parliament. A good number of journalists & commentators seem convinced that the Prime Minister has outright blocked such an order even before a vote – though, as ever, what the PM actually said was no such thing.

There’s a very good reason I would be extremely surprised if the Prime Minister does, indeed, take measures to block a Scottish Independence Referendum outright – and it’s nothing to do with what the people of Scotland want.

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Wasted Years

Be like the Hairy-Chested Yeti Crab of the Hydrothermal Vents

Be like the Hairy-Chested Yeti Crab of the Deep Hydrothermal Vents of Antarctica

2016 was the worst, so the meme goes. So many deaths, so much political upheaval, so many things that just went wrong. My 2016 was not unlike any of the other 32 years of my life so far: good things happened, bad things happened, some great, some terrible. But there’s always something I remember each year.

So, as with last year, I’ll look back on the top posts of this year – 16 this time, in order of publication, while linking to some of my personal favourite posts.

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