"Auferre, trucidare, rapere, falsis nominibus imperium; atque ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant." – They ravage, they slaughter, they plunder, and they falsely name it "empire"; they make a wilderness, and call it "peace."
As the election is tomorrow, I thought I’d do my bit to note all the pro-independence, indy-open, or at least indy-neutral candidates standing in each ward. Every ward except Inverclyde East (where all three candidates have been elected automatically) and Inverclyde South have enough candidates for independence supporters not only to rank above open anti-independence candidates, but theoretically take all the available seats. This happened in Inverclyde West in 2017, where 2 pro-independence candidates and 1 neutral independent were elected. This should be the goal of every independence supporter across Scotland. Considerations about “democracy” and “fairness” are moot, because for as long as we are part of the UK, “democracy” and “fairness” never enter into the equation in the first place. This isn’t overriding democracy – it’s ensuring democracy, real democracy, has a chance to actually manifest with Scottish independence.
I won’t explicate the order in which I will be voting, nor will I make any particular recommendations. I expect Alba supporters to put Alba first and SNP supporters to put their candidates first: there is no real way to “game” the Single Transferrable Vote system, so it is honestly one of the most authentic methods. You really do vote for your first choice first, and your last choice last. Even if you can’t stand any particular candidate, or refuse to support their party, you can at least place them above individuals & parties who are actively opposed to independence. I leave to others arguments about local issues. My argument is that if the power station fails, it doesn’t matter how many lightbulbs you change or wires you reroute in your living room – you need to get the power going at the source.
Ever since switching to Alba, I’ve made a sincere effort to be fair and even-handed to the SNP: it is obvious that the SNP are vital to the cause of independence, and I know my friends are no less dedicated to the cause than I or anyone else. But the question as to why I left does warrant more explanation, and I’m afraid it cannot be bereft of some criticism.
Many of my friends will be voting SNP/SNP (as I did in 2016) or SNP/Green (as many of my friends did in 2016) tomorrow. I voted that way because I thought they would deliver on the single, most important part of their manifesto:
We believe that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum if there is clear and sustained evidence that independence has become the preferred option of a majority of the Scottish people – or if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will.
Some would say the Pandemic is sufficient mitigating circumstances, to which I cannot agree, for what illustrates the pressing need for independence more than being trapped in an insane United Kingdom with a robber baron perfectly happy to “let the bodies pile high” so long as his precious finances are unharmed?
I remember attending my first “Yes” event, all those years ago. I was pleasantly surprised at how many folk were there, all sharing a desire for an independent Scotland – but nonetheless, acknowledged the trials which lay ahead. It’s almost a decade since I started the modern, “real” leg of my personal journey. Back then, Inverclyde was predicted to be one of the lowest Yes-voting constituencies in all of Scotland, and everyone seemed to know it: the best we could hope for was that our complement would be enough to contribute to the national vote. As it ended up, of course, Inverclyde was the 5th highest Yes result in all of Scotland. Then we went from an Opposition Party stronghold to one of the top ten SNP gains in both UK & Scottish Parliament elections. Then we were the 30th-highest Remain vote in the entire UK.
Inverclyde seems to have a habit of confounding expectations.
In a time long ago, I was once privy to secret knowledge. Back in my film criticism/journalism days, I talked with directors, screenwriters, producers, all sorts of individuals: I knew a lot of folk who worked at various levels in the industry. I’m lucky enough to call some of them my friends – damned if I know how or why I found myself in their circles, yet there I was, an errant mote in the whirlpool of Important People. One of my favourite secret memories is when I received some… information. To protect my sources, I won’t say anything beyond that it was related to a significant milestone in popular culture – the sort of thing that only happens once.
I knew that, while some elements would surely be divisive, others would be received warmly, & some would have longtime aficionados leaping to their feet in delight. Oh boy, folk are going to love this, I thought. But I daren’t tell a soul what I knew – quite apart from betraying my sources’ confidence, how could I ruin something that means so much to so many? So, I went on forums, news site comment sections, Facebook groups, Twitter lists, and looked at what everyone was thinking about this pop cultural milestone… while I, privy to secret knowledge, cackled in glee like the proverbial Imp of the Perverse. Reading their theories, their hopes, their fears, all while I knew exactly what was going to happen. Then, the pop cultural milestone happened. Sure enough, some criticized a few parts – but the vast majority seemed to adore it. And I felt that kind of contentment, knowing that I never betrayed my source’s confidence for well over a year, waiting for this great event to unfold. Something of the glamour of prophesy, but for fun.
I wish I had happy secret knowledge like that again.
“The traitor within is to be feared more than the foe without. It was not the legions of Rome which conquered me – it was the traitors within my gates. Not alone in swords and ships does Rome deal, but with the souls of men.”
– The Tall Stranger, “Delenda Est,” Robert E. Howard
There’s a phrase that kicks about in times of conflict and war – Delenda Est. It’s most often seen in the term Carthago Delenda Est, “Carthage Must Be Destroyed,” by modern scholars of classical antiquity in regards to Marcus Porcious Cato’s closing words during Senatorial debates between the 2nd and 3rd Punic Wars. The Carthaginian Empire were Rome’s great rivals to undisputed rule over the western Mediterranean Sea, and had been reduced to a corner of North Africa following the 2nd Punic War. The punitive peace treaty of 201 BC- which included losing almost all of its overseas territories to Rome, and barring Carthage from making war without Rome’s permission, even when being raided by aggressive neighbouring Numidia – meant that Carthage presented little danger.
But this was never enough for Rome, & it certainly was not enough for Cato, who viewed Carthage’s wealth & prosperity despite losing two wars in the last century as an outrageous threat to Roman security. Carthage must not only be defeated – it must be destroyed. When Carthage finally acted against the invading Numidians, Cato convinced the Senate to go to war – and Carthage was destroyed.
It’s been a difficult few months for all of us. I haven’t commented on it because everyone’s been fighting their own battles, and it seemed self-indulgent of me to rant into the aether. But several things have happened recently that changed that.
A good friend of mine lost somebody very important to them to a terrible disease. They live in a country that doesn’t have universal healthcare, and so they must resort to their own means for treatment. They asked for money, donations, anything anyone could spare, just so someone could stay alive. They kept everyone up to date on how things are going, sharing the little joys and tremendous pains. And through it all, everyone offering their well wishes, offers of assistance, ensuring that their thoughts were with them.
To my eternal shame, I haven’t said anything to them. Anything, everything, I could say feels so profoundly inadequate that it would be insulting to even impart the words. “I’m sorry.” “I’m here for you.” “If you need anything, just ask.” All while they live in a nation where your health and wellbeing is dictated by your income and insurance choices. Where good health is not a universal right – a human right. It seemed the height of perversion to me for a wealthy nation to demand its people look to charity just to make their lives less agonising, their existence less uncertain, their story less bleak.
My friend’s significant other has passed now, just as untold thousands in that nation have, and thousands more will, because they live in a country where the people have decided it’s an acceptable state of affairs.
Yet I can’t cast stones in my glass house. The parliament which governs our nation has voted for a bill absolving public authorities from wrongdoing – including crimes like torture, sexual assault, even outright murder. It comes barely a month after that same parliament decided that breaking international law was an acceptable eventuality in their disastrous talks with the EU. That comes after that same parliament decided that any and every power which should come to the parliament which should govern our nation must go through them first, democracy be damned.
Meanwhile, the parliament which should be governing our nation is preparing for an election, where the government party is looking towards unprecedented support, led by a tremendously popular leader praised across multiple parties, and buoyed by historically high preference for Scotland’s natural status as an independent nation… and yet. I would love to be confident that such an election will even take place given the direction the UK is accelerating towards – not to mention the little demon on my shoulder that reminds me “a lot can happen in seven months.”
It seems perverse to see such a surge for the cause I hold dearest, the party which will and must deliver the goal of that cause, and the people who must make it happen, yet feel utter despair and dread for what the future will bring. The criticism the SNP have faced from fellow pro-independence supporters outstrips even the most severe condemnation I heard in the runup to the first referendum. Back then, I acknowledged that some people are going to just disagree, be it the socialists balking at the White Paper’s plans for corporation tax cuts, or the anti-EU campaigners wanting a Scotland outside the bloc.
Despite the polls, despite the support, despite the glow from the fires of a people newly awakened from apathy and nihilism, it is imperative that criticism – genuine criticism, not the dishonest storytelling concocted by those opposed to independence – must be contextualised & understood. The SNP has survived as long as it has not because it suppresses disagreement, but because it adapts to concerns where warranted. Hence how the Scottish Government correctly changed its initial response to the Coronavirus epidemic; hence how the Education Secretary reversed the initial decision on Scottish exam results; hence how we’re seeing discussions of alternative routes to independence despite the insistence on repeating the circumstances of the Edinburgh Agreement.
And it’s tough. We’re all tired of the UK Government lying and cheating and wrecking lives and communities. We’re all tired of Coronavirus taking away loved ones and necessitating difficult practises. We’re all tired of arguing with each other and being accused of being secret UK Government assets by people who agree with us on just about everything. We’re all tired of being tired.
But I’ll tell you this: we have to get over ourselves. All of us. Because if we don’t, nobody’s going to do it for us.
So the new clarion call is “if the SNP win a majority in the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections, then we’ll recognise the mandate that we’ve refused to recognise no less than four times since 2015.” (Unless you’re Lisa Nandy, Willie Rennie, or Alister Jack.)
Here’s the thing, which it amazes me hardly anyone brings up – by every reasonable measure except the number of seats (in a system designed explicitly to prevent any party gaining a majority) & regional vote share, the SNP have a stronger mandate for an independence referendum in 2016 than they did in 2014.
In 2011, 45.4% voted SNP on the constituency list: in 2016, that rose to 46.5%
In 2011, 876,421 voted SNP on the constituency list: in 2016, that rose to 1,059,897
In 2011, 53 of 73 constituency seats – as in, the First Past the Post system used in UK General Elections – went to the SNP: in 2016, that rose to 59
It is only because of the method used to elect members to the regional list that the SNP lost their overall majority despite increasing their vote share, the number of voters, & the number of constituency seats – which tend to be all that matter in First Past the Post systems such as the UK’s ancient regime. (And this isn’t taking into account that the SNP went into the first independence referendum with a mere 6 MPs and 19.9%, etc.)
The reaction to the First Minister’s announcement this past Friday has been decidedly mixed. Some considered it a perfectly balanced and ultimately realistic approach; others have criticized it for excessive caution or repetitious platitudes. Where you lie on that sliding scale seems to correlate with how much you trust the SNP, the Scottish Government, and the First Minister, to deliver the intended 2020 timeline for the next Scottish Independence Referendum despite the monolithic obstruction that is the UK Government.
Whatever you thought of the announcement, it is clear that it is beyond time to get things going again. There has been a considerable vacuum left by Yes Scotland since its dissolution three months after the 2014 Referendum. Many groups and initiatives have attempted to fill that void – All Under One Banner, the SNP’s new Yes campaign, the revived Scottish Independence Convention and its Voices for Scotland campaign – but for various reasons, none have truly captured the movement in that sense of united purpose felt in the run up to 2014. Personality conflicts, party dynamics, internecine disagreements, campaign fatigue, and lost momentum have taken their toll on the movement’s structural integrity.
Getting the disparate independence supporting groups together is the primary goal of the National Yes Registry.
We men are wretched things, and the gods, who have no cares themselves, have woven sorrow into the very pattern of our lives.
– Achilles, The Iliad
For whatever reason, the people behind the theft of our democracy wanted us all to share, comment, & get very worked up about this video, from a TV programme that came out seven years ago. That this should be amplified so widely now rather than any point in the last seven years immediately puts me on edge.
Boris reciting the Iliad from memory. In ancient Greek.
I’m not a classical scholar by any means: my use of a Latin quotation from an Ancient Roman source in this site’s header is merely because I prefer, when possible, to use the original source – one not obscured by the unavoidable bias of translation. I’m deeply suspicious of people who overuse (or improperly use) certain words & phrases from dead languages, which you’d think would put me at odds with my great appreciation for history & classical scholarship. As expected, there was a clamouring of “he’s rambling,” “gibberish,” “terrible pronunciation,” and whatnot, while others responded with “actually not bad,” “brilliant,” “didn’t understand a word of it but it was highly entertaining.” For the most part, to my immense frustration, the vast majority of comments on either side were deeply unhelpful – mostly pronouncements of credentials (“I’m an ancient Greek scholar & what he said was nonsense/flawless”) without anyone providing something that would be useful – like, say, providing the bit of the Illiad he was speaking, saying why it was nonsense/flawless, old-fashioned stuff like evidence, you know. You’re just expected to believe them because they said so, rather than because they prove their case forensically. That it was both sides doing this shows why we’re in this mess.
I find the whole episode highly instructive on many levels.