All in This Together… Except When We’re Not

I presume most readers are aware of Hans Christian Anderson’s classic tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” An emperor rather obsessed with fashion is always on the lookout for the most flamboyant and outrageous garments. Two con-men catch wind of this, and hatch a scheme: they claim they can weave delicate fabrics so fine and sheer that they would appear invisible to the unworthy and stupid. The credulous emperor commissions them forthwith, and the two “weavers” set to “work,” pantomime weaving & sewing these nonexistent garments. Obviously the Emperor, his ministers, and his officials cannot see a thing – yet rather than speak & be thought unworthy or stupid, they went along with the con. Once finished (and several bags of gold heavier) the “weavers” pantomime dressing the nude Emperor up for the big parade. As with the ministers, officials, and the Emperor himself, the townsfolk also go along with the con, loudly commenting on his finery as he passed. This farce continued until a little child – who, being a child, is not yet susceptible to pluralistic ignorance – loudly comments “the emperor has no clothes on!” His understandably mortified parents attempt to save face, but once the truth is elucidated, it’s hard to suppress. Whispers became murmurs, hubbub became commotion, until eventually all the crowd were exclaiming the same as the child – “the emperor has no clothes on!” And the emperor, vain and proud to the end, realises that he’s been had… but still marches on, while his sycophantic nobles continue holding his nonexistent train aloft.

Imagine if, at the end of the story, rather than point and laugh, breaking the spell, the adults keep up the pretense. They continue to compliment the Emperor on his finery; they still treat the Emperor as a wise and intelligent ruler; they perpetuate the illusion even when explicitly pointed out to them. Because, to those people, it is less frightening to continue the illusion than face the facts – they were ruled by an idiot who was swindled by a con-man.

Such an alternate ending is sounding darkly familiar.

Continue reading

Declaration Day

The Declaration of Arbroath from Charlie Stuart on Vimeo.

Today marks the 700th anniversary of one of the most important documents in not just Scottish, or British, but world history. It is the subject of documentaries. It is cited as an inspiration to other national declarations. It has been registered on UNESCO’S Memory of the World. I’ve quite proud to have an illustrated edition by Andrew Barr.

We should be out in our thousands celebrating it – at Arbroath itself, throughout Scotland, and the wider world. We should be marching and dancing and laughing in the streets, singing auld sangs and chanting auld hymns, embracing our friends and family and total strangers. But we cannot, because of circumstances outside our control – and some circumstances which we allowed to happen to us.

A day of great jubilation and self-affirmation for the entire nation is strangled – politically, socially, existentially.

And yet…

Continue reading

Quick Question for Democrats

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.)

So this poses an interesting question.

Continue reading

Gather Ourselves Together

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.

Continue reading

The Nightmare Before Christmas

The Scottish peoples’ mandate for a second independence referendum has been reinforced for a fourth time. The SNP had their second best general election result in the party’s 80-plus-year history. Ronnie Cowan, elected to represent Inverclyde for a third time, has increased his majority – and joins 47 other pro-independence MPs. 81% of Scottish MPs – 1 in 5 – is pro-independence. That’s more than the 1918 General Election result in Ireland which preceded the Republic of Ireland.

Anyone who says that the SNP have no mandate for an independence referendum (not even outright independence negotiations, the mere democratic exercise of a referendum) is, to put it bluntly, either lying or stupid.

UK General Election 2019 Results

Meanwhile, England has descended further into the abyss. Aided and abetted by “moderates” and “centrists” who act as midwives for the unspeakable in the name of “reason”; enabled by an establishment who refuses to take the direct action needed to stop this assault on our collective freedoms; facilitated by a “neutral” state media who had one of the architects of the lawbreaking EU referendum on as an election night pundit.

It really is like some sort of nightmare, isn’t it?

Continue reading

Independence Until Independence

Given the SNP is a national party campaigning in a variety of different constituencies, it understandable – if deeply frustrating – that each constituency will take a different path. Why would you campaign on dairy rural reform in Springburn, or North Sea fisheries legislation in Wanlochead? A general election focuses as much on local issues as it does wider areas. So I can understand (if clench my teeth with no little grating) that some candidates in some parts of Scotland do not put the party’s reason for existance front and centre of their personal election campaign.

An argument could be made – and goodness knows Scottish Independence’s enemies make the argument often enough – that the SNP are so synonymous with independence, there’s simply no need to even mention the “i” word. Blue, Orange, and Red Rosettes can pull their double-act of claiming the SNP simultaneously don’t want independence at all while also wanting independence at all costs, a performance that would have even Janus spinning, while the SNP can justifiably promote their successes in policy.

But, as we all surely know by now, these are frightening times. People are fearful of the future to a degree I haven’t seen – hoped to never see again – since those dark days of the late 20th Century, before the ends of the Troubles and the Cold War dashed some cold reason into the faces of our planet’s leaders. The people want what none of the UK parties are actually offering – certainty, security, confidence, hope. They need more than even fairly unambiguous shibboleths for independence like “Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands,” “Scotland’s right to choose,” or the like. And for some, the SNP’s focus on stopping the UK from leaving the EU, defensible as it may be, is not where they want the party’s primary focus to lie.

But incumbent MPs like Ronnie Cowan, Patricia Gibson, Philippa Whitford, Chris Law, Stephen Gethins, Stewart Hosie, Tommy Sheppard, Stewart McDonald, and candidates like Stephen Flynn & Owen Thompson (among others) certainly found space for the “i” word:

That’s why I’m voting SNP in Inverclyde, without any hesitation, without anything holding me back – because, when the chips are down, and when all the policy and politics are stripped away, I know that the SNP candidate for Inverclyde is down in Westminster for one purpose and one purpose only.

 

This election has been a nightmare for so many of us, and unless we get ourselves out of bed tomorrow morning, that nightmare won’t end anytime soon. Scotland needs to wake up.

A Week for Walking Worms

This is a Velvet Worm. It’s the cutest worm I can find.

A week to go for the third UK General Election since 2015, and I suspect a great number of folk in the isles are sick to death of them all. They’re sick of an incumbent Prime Minister who seems incapable of telling the truth; they’re sick of an opposition that should be wiping the floor with the most evil government in living memory; they’re sick of the Third Party promising change who they know, deep down, will happily facilitate the evil government for the price of a ministerial role. And even in Scotland, where the First Minister is widely considered not just the best, but the only serious politician in every debate – by newspaper readers, commentators, many folk down south, even the BBC – we Scots seem determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Continue reading

It Ain’t Effectively So

The SNP’s newest councillor has been criticised over a £600 “telephone and ICT” expenses bill.

Anne McTaggart, who defected from Labour to the SNP last week, incurred costs nearly fifteen times higher than her colleagues…

McTaggart was a Labour MSP between 2011 and 2016 before she was effectively deselected by party members.

– Paul Hutcheon, 6th November 2019

So sayeth Paul Hutcheon in his ongoing Saga of the Evil Provost, as serialised in the Daily Record. I have highlighted the curious phrase “effectively deselected.” Deselected would suggest a fairly matter-of-fact presentation of the process: that the membership was unhappy with Ms McTaggart, & undertook the established deselection process: effectively deselected, on the other hand, suggests that her deselection came about by somewhat less conventional means. I wonder if anyone could elaborate on that?

Continue reading

John

John was there at the very beginning of my journey. As Head of Office for Stuart McMillan & later Derek Mackay, he was ever present in the Scottish Independence Referendum and every election campaign. He was there when I went out canvassing for the first time, a steady hand & cool head. He was there with Stuart McMillan at a fundraiser when I first met his future boss, Derek Mackay. Yet it’s difficult to think of any particular memories of John, because he was always there: on canvassing sessions, constituency meetings, fundraisers, conferences. Any memory of John, for me, was inseparable from any of those memories.

I was only too eager to support him in his successful campaign for the new position of Member Support Convenor earlier this year, helping his team out with leaflets & whatnot. Just last month, when I was feeling so despondent & frustrated, his counsel & reassurance was instrumental in lifting my spirits from the doldrums. John had that way about him: despite being younger than me by just under a year, I always felt he was older and wiser all the same. It’s no surprise to see the heartfelt messages of condolences from across the political spectrum: a harder-working, more dedicated, more thoughtful, & more compassionate campaigner, activist, & person, you’d be hard pressed to find.

I’m no good in the company of death: I suspect no one is. But it stings especially so when it’s a fellow independence supporter, when it seems we are so close. All these people who lived, breathed, & worked for the cause, only not to see it through to the end – or, at least, to share it with us. People who cried with us on the 19th of September 2014, who cheered with us on the 9th May 2015, who shared the spark of renewed determination on the 24th of June 2016. Yet all those who passed between then and now helped build our support, strengthen our resolve, support our campaign: the bricks they laid still hold steady. We just have to keep building.

I was reminded of a bittersweet quote by Richard Bach in The Bridge Across Forever: A True Love Story: “Here is a test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: If you´re alive it isn’t.” It’s difficult to reconcile the sentiment of John’s mission being finished with the cause he dedicated his life to, since it’s obvious to all who knew him what that mission was. But no one person can win a cause, any more than one Egyptian built the Great Pyramid of Giza. It’s up to all of us.

We lay our bricks, supporting one another, until we reach the sun.