Divide and Home Rule

A still from an American WW2 propaganda film. Guess the name.

I have a new article on Indyref2.scot on the subject of sectarianism in today’s Scottish political climate. It’s a subject I care very much about, and recent statements and political decisions have moved me to comment on them.

For folk like Murdo Fraser, Adam Tomkins, and Ruth Davidson, these comments are little more than trolls to wind up the Nats. Toying with these forces for political gain, safe in the knowledge that they won’t experience the consequences of such tensions’ inevitable conclusion, is just a game to them. It’s no game to me.

Fifteen Months of Suspense

Center your country in the Tao and evil will have no power. Not that it isn’t there, but you’ll be able to step out of its way. Give evil nothing to oppose and it will disappear by itself.” ~Tao Te Ching, Chapter 60

I’m not playing the “how many seats will the SNP win tomorrow” game. I didn’t play it in the last election, or the one before that, or the one before that. For all I pride myself on being calm and dispassionate in my analysis, I cannot extend this to pondering which seats will go where – especially not in this election.

I cannot bear to think about a social democratic candidate failing to win their seat, because of some misguided and futile attempt to frustrate the democratic mandate of the people of Scotland. I cannot stand the idea of Scotland contributing to the extremist takeover of the UK Government. At the Inverclyde hustings just a few days ago, the candidate with the red rosette insisted to us that “Brexit is happening.” There was nothing we could do about it, it seems: the decision was made, we have to suck it up and get on with it. Capitulation to a gerrymandered, likely compromised poll which is being used as an excuse to destroy decades of advancement.

So, Brexit is happening – but an independence referendum is not happening. Even after the disenfranchisement of the people who will be most affected, the choice to leave the European Union is represented by 0 of 32 Local Authority areas in Scotland – but it’s happening anyway, because The British People Have Spoken, which means the People of Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Gibraltar have to do what the People of England want. A Scottish Independence Referendum proposed for this exact situation – from a manifesto the current Scottish Government was elected on by a historic turnout – is not happening, because the parties elected by most people in England don’t want it.

The truth is, when you look at it in every way except seat numbers & the regional list, the SNP have a greater mandate for an independence referendum than even the 2011 landslide. More people voted SNP – indeed, more people voted SNP than voted for any party in a Scottish election ever. A greater percentage of voters voted SNP in their constituencies, leading to the SNP winning 59 of 73 constituency seats – a Parliamentary landslide unmatched by any UK election. To say the SNP have no mandate is as grotesquely anti-democratic as to say the SNP didn’t win the 2016 election. Which is something party leaders have actually stated.

But even the issue of Scottish Independence, something which I have no reluctance in saying is utterly paramount to politics in Scotland, pales in comparison to the nightmare brooding on the horizon.

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Grassroots vs Astroturf

Here’s a thing that happened on Saturday.

It’s something that’s been controversial for a while, not least because it took place 5 days before a snap General Election – despite the fact the event was organised long before the election was even suggested. Some SNP candidates & supporters asked folk not to attend the rally, but to campaign for their pro-independence candidate in their individual constituencies. Other SNP figures were at the march themselves.

I’ve already written my piece on marches, but it bears repeating again: the SNP is not the Scottish Independence Movement, the SNP serves the Scottish Independence Movement. The SNP candidates are focusing on getting elected, so of course they will be looking for more canvassers, leafleteers, and campaigners. But even if something like 1 in 50 voters in Scotland is a member of the SNP, that means there are an awful lot more independence supporters who aren’t members, maybe not even voters. Obviously some people at the march will be members of the party – but pretending that independence is the sole dominion of the SNP, the Greens, or indeed any or all of the pro-independence parties, is pretending that Scottish Independence is a party-political issue.

And who does that serve?

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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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Mind Over Manners

If you get rid of the midden of power control, special pleading, social engineering, fevered dreaming, spiritual zeal, do-goodery, vanity and dumb-thuggery, then, right at the bottom of politics, you’ll find its original idea, the founding purpose of governance: it’s to feed people, or perhaps to allow folk to eat their dinner in peace. It doesn’t need a manifesto or speeches or plebiscite or subcommunities or baby-kissing or flesh-pressing to understand politics, it’s just about breakfast.
– A.A. Gill

I don’t respond well to ultimatums. If I was ever in a situation where someone said “it’s me or the dog,” I’d pick the dog, precisely because the dog would never demand I make a choice like that. “My way or the highway” – the highway doesn’t insist I follow it. So when someone tells me “don’t donate/support/follow this individual, or you’ll hurt the cause of independence,” how do you think I’m going to respond to that?

This wasn’t No campaigners or champions of the British Establishment, by the way: it was other independence supporters, saying that I shouldn’t give my support, my time, or my money to another independence supporter, on the basis of their personal statements. Now, here’s the thing: I’ve made a point of being as welcoming as possible to all independence supporters, knowing fully well that people are going to disagree with each other – sometimes vociferously, as is their right and prerogative. I think every major pro-independence blog, site, magazine, or paper has said something I either disagree with, or find personally offensive, whether it’s specifically related to independence or not. Yet I still list them on my links on this site; I’ll still read, retweet, and support good articles; I’ll still congratulate them on work well done. I’m used to this in other areas of my life, be it Robert E. Howard scholarship, anti-sectarian work, or even something as broad as art & illustration.

I’m not going to shut out an independence supporter because I disagree with them, or because I find their opinions or actions offensive. I’m not going to suggest that anyone should adopt my approach, either: it’s up to you to determine who you interact with & support. All I can say is that my personal view is that I take great pride in the Scottish Independence movement being an open, inclusive, welcoming movement: ostracising or rejecting individuals or groups, even those who challenge your most fundamental beliefs and ideals, is not something I can get behind. As long as someone acts within the law, they are welcome – to be challenged, as well as accepted.

Those who know me well would be aware that I don’t tend towards using aggressive language, and that I rarely swear (except board game nights, naturally, then anything goes). I’m polite to a fault, and hate confrontation, which is why I find politics so frustratingly difficult to engage in – because in my experience, being polite and well-mannered tells you absolutely nothing about a person’s character.

And this is something that reaches far beyond the matter of Scottish Independence.

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The Other Leg of Time

Talk about the Butterfly Effect

You might have wondered why I didn’t mark yesterday: what could have been the first anniversary of an Independent Scotland’s reappearance after three centuries of union. We could dream about a Scotland that didn’t suffer the indignities of yet another government they didn’t vote for, a Smith Commission where the party of Scottish Government’s proposals were rejected, a Scotland Bill without a single amendment from a Scottish MP, a European Union referendum they didn’t want, and a forced exit from a European Union they didn’t want to leave. We could imagine a Scotland finding its feet, facing the challenges, and working to overcome the obstacles which any nation braves willingly as the responsibility of a sovereign state. We could fantasise about the books finally being laid open, the vindication of Scotland’s real finances, and see how the EU really would treat a “new” pro-EU nation, which already adhered to EU legislation for 40 years, that wanted to remain.

Yet we’ll never truly know, will we? A Yes vote would have changed everything. Nothing would be the same. Would David Cameron have stuck it out until the General Election? In the event he resigned, would Theresa May have succeeded him – would she even put herself in the running? What would have happened in the 2015 election – would Scottish constituencies even put forward candidates for a Parliament that would no longer rule them? Would there even be an election that year, given the upheaval the breaking of the Treaty of Union would have undoubtedly wrought? Even if there was a General Election, could we be so sure the party which lost Scotland could have succeeded in gaining a majority? And even if that majority was gained, would a European Union Referendum even take place – “Now is not the time” for another referendum being a popular refrain in this timeline? If so, what guarantee is there that Leave would be victorious in the aftermath of Scottish Independence?

Such is the nature of the Butterfly Effect, where one decision – one that might seem small, like a cross in a ballot box – can have far-reaching consequences.

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