What Ships Are Built For

A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.
John Augustus Shedd (1859 – 1928)

Picture a boat in a harbour. Let’s call her the Scotia. She can be any kind of boat you like: a proud Birlinn, a swift Sgoth Niseach, a stout Gabbart, a bonny Clyde Puffer, a dainty Fifie. The boat is old and well-travelled, though she has not been on a voyage for a very long time. Yet she still floats; her hull is solid and sturdy; the deck and gunwales clear and well-maintained; cargo manifest up-to-date, even her paint still vibrant. Like the Ship of Theseus, she has been built and rebuilt countless times, yet retains the shape and spirit since she was launched. She boasts a dedicated, enthusiastic crew, of many talents and experiences, ready for any and all challenges. People the world over look to this boat as a truly exemplary craft – one that passenger, crewman, and officer alike would be honoured to board & serve.

Now imagine that boat never leaves its harbour.

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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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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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I Don’t Want Another Independence Referendum

There are wants and there are needs. This is a basic element of health, economics, and social structure. First there are wants: things which you might desire, but which are not essential to your life & livelihood – luxuries, frivolities, hobbies. Then there are needs: things which you might not desire, but which are essential to your life & livelihood – sustenance, shelter, warmth. There are wants which can provide some needs, and some needs which you might want. But at the end of the day, needs are essential: wants are not.

It is important to distinguish between the two.

Basis for Comparison Needs Wants
Meaning Needs refers to an individual’s basic requirement that must be fulfilled, in order to survive. Wants are described as the goods and services, which an individual like to have, as a part of his caprices.
Nature Limited Unlimited
What is it? Something you must have. Something you wish to have.
Represents Necessity Desire
Survival Essential Inessential
Change May remain constant over time. May change over time.
Non-fulfillment May result in onset of disease or even death. May result in disappointment.
I don’t want another Independence Referendum. The Scottish Government don’t want another Independence Referendum. And I don’t think the people of Scotland want another Independence Referendum.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

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Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing

Alex Salmond has been accused of attempting to rewrite history after he dismissed as a “collective myth” his promise before the 2014 independence referendum that there would not be a rerun for a generation or even a lifetime.
The former First Minister claimed he had not used the phrase “once in a lifetime” in a 2014 television interview to describe the vote and insisted he had instead said it was the “opportunity of a lifetime.”
However, footage and an official transcript of the interview showed he did use the “once in a lifetime” phrase when asked whether he would pledge not to “bring back another referendum” if the nationalists lost.
Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr on the Sunday before the September 2014 vote, Mr Salmond said: “In my view this is a once in a generation – perhaps even a once in a lifetime – opportunity.”
– The Telegraph, 19th March 2017

Alex Salmond said “In my view this is a once in a generation – perhaps even a once in a lifetime – opportunity.” Therefore, there should not be another Independence Referendum for a generation, “perhaps” even a lifetime. After all, Alex Salmond said it, therefore it was a “cast-iron promise” which must be upheld:

We already know the SNP is perfectly happy to break the vow to the people of Scotland that the 2014 result would stand for a generation.
But it’s another thing entirely for Mr Salmond to claim he did not actually make this cast-iron promise to voters. The people of Scotland will see through this latest bluster from a man who walked into the poorest communities in Scotland and sold them a lie about the economic case for independence.
Ian Murray, who has a cheek talking about another party breaking a “vow” to the people of Scotland

Why do people think this is an argument? It’s stupid. It’s utterly, utterly stupid.

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