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.

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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?

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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.

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?

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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.

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them

As predicted by nobody (except those who were paying attention) the European Elections were a resounding victory for Remain-supporting parties in Scotland – who won every single voting area, as well as more or less matching the EU referendum result of 62% of the vote – and an unmitigated disaster for them in the rest of the UK.

And amidst all the hand-wringing and caterwauling about what on earth the UK Remain Camp can do to solve this crisis, they actually exacerbate the problem in the process.

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This Land Is Ours

I feel a great sense of personal failure over the news that Thomas Widmann of Arc of Prosperity decided to move to Denmark.

I’m an EU citizen, and I’m not willing to be left to the mercy of the UK Home Office. All Nicola Sturgeon’s sweet statements saying that “Scotland is your home, we want you to stay” are just that without independence: words. To protect New Scots, Scotland needs independence, and it doesn’t seem to be happening soon enough. If Sturgeon doesn’t feel she can help us, she should say so instead wringing her hands helplessly – it’s infuriating.

So I’m leaving, together with my Scottish wife and our children (aged 9, 11 and 13). We’re moving to Funen in Denmark (I’ve found myself a job in Bogense). We have our own company here in Scotland, but we don’t feel confident it can survive the recession caused by Brexit, so we’re shutting it down.

After 17 years in Scotland, I will always feel partly Scottish. I’ll always support Scottish independence, and I hope we’ll be back for an independence march from time to time. But we’re not willing to expose ourselves to Brexit Britain, complete with chlorinated chickens, a privatised health service, rising university fees, getting hounded by the Home Office, and potential no prospects of an independence referendum for decades.

It’s devastating to leave, but we don’t believe remaining here is an option.

Thomas and the other millions of EU citizens in the UK are perhaps the main reason I campaigned so strongly for Remain – to the extent of working with the official Remain campaign, rather than the SNP or another pro-indy pro-remain group. Inverclyde was the 5th highest Yes voting constituency, but a statistical knife-edge, and the SNP vote in 2015 & 2016 was “only” around 55% – meaning the other 45% might not necessarily want to talk with someone with Clootie or Yes badges. I figured that if I’m there not as an SNP member, not an independence supporter, but as part of an outfit run by people who would normally be my most dedicated opposition, I would be able to converse & talk to people who might not otherwise be receptive. It seemed to work well in Inverclyde, where we ended up the 30th-highest Remain voting constituency in all of the UK & Gibraltar. Certainly it was a lovely, if awkward, change to go to the count with the “regular” party activists & politicians on the same side of a campaign. (Indeed, of the 40 or so present at the count, there were exactly 2 representatives for the Leave campaign in Inverclyde.)

So I campaigned not just because we needed to hold the UK to a promise they made in 2014, and not just because we Scots benefit so much from working with the EU (when the UK Government allows it), but because I felt we had a great duty and responsibility to those born in another nation who made Scotland their home. I was certain that this would come before the end of March 2019 – it had to. And, like Thomas, I thought the SNP were fighting well. Then the 2017 snap election – which I maintain was nothing to do with giving Theresa May a meaningless “fresh” mandate, and everything to do with neutralising the SNP & stopping indyref2 – came & knocked the SNP for six. It’s quite demoralising when the 2nd best Westminster result in the party’s 80+ year history hurts like it did. At some point, the SNP decided to stop and regroup – and in doing so, let the deadline for an indyref that would allow Scotland to seamlessly transition from UK-region-leaving-EU to independent-nation-in-EU.

I think of all that time trying to reassure my colleagues, friends, & acquaintances who would be affected by this that the SNP wouldn’t allow this to happen. I don’t know whether the 2017 election rattled the SNP. I don’t know if this is all part of some big plan we aren’t privy to. But I do know that one great advocate and campaigner for Scottish Independence has launched his own lifeboat, taking his family to a confident independent European nation not too far away, because he lost faith. And I’m so utterly, utterly furious that we let that happen.

But even in the darkest doldrums, there must be hope. When the Yes Campaign told Inverclyde activists that “we probably won’t win Inverclyde” & had a wee table predicting a 25% Yes vote, we didn’t play that game – because the alternative was unthinkable. When SNP higher-ups were suggesting that Inverclyde might not be able to unseat the party which has dominated it practically uninterrupted for 80 years, especially after the referendum, we weren’t going to just let that deter us from doing our damnedest. And now, when some folk suggest that the SNP are just going to let a Triple-Lock mandate that is unprecedented in Scottish political history just run out, I cannot help but think I’ve heard that before.

I’m not entertaining the possibility that this will happen any more than I entertained the possibility that Inverclyde would be one of the lowest Yes-voting constituencies, or that there’d be an Inverclyde-shaped gap in Scotland’s 2015 Yellow Blanket. I don’t see the point in it. Come the end of March, whether it’s May’s ruinous deal or the ultimate goal behind the UK leaving the EU in the first place, the SNP won’t really have a choice at all. That’s why there wasn’t a referendum in the 2007 Parliament’s lifetime, and why there was a referendum in the 2011 Parliament. In both cases, the Parliamentary arithmetic was academic. That remains the case here.

I’m sorry, and frankly ashamed, that we didn’t grasp the thistle in time for Thomas, his wife, and their children to stay. I cannot stand the thought that more have already made this exodus, and that even more are considering it. They don’t want, or need, “caution,” or to wait for “the best time,” or fiddling about. They need confidence, they need determination, they need hope, that the party whose entire existence is to make Scotland the best country it can be is willing to push the boat out as far as they can. We all do.

This land is mine. This land is Thomas’. This land belongs to all of us who make it our home. But Thomas isn’t the only Scot in exile who longs to return.

I mention it only because it always makes my heart glow. The phrase “New Scots” is a well-intentioned and rather sweet one, but I prefer a simpler version – such people are Scots. They say you can’t choose your family but you choose your friends, and nothing makes me prouder of my country than that those from far-off lands should choose to come here and become, wholeheartedly, one of us, and to bring up their offspring in the same way…

… I want Scotland to be independent with my head, for the reasons exhaustively detailed on this blog for the last seven months. But I realised this week that its reluctance to stand up and take its place among the nations of the world gnaws at my heart and my soul too. Scotland is vastly more different to England than Newcastle is different to Birmingham or Norwich or Southampton, and it makes no sense on any level for it to continue to hobble along in the ill-fitting, badly-repaired shoes of Britain.

So if this rambling old post has a purpose, it’s to answer a question I’m often asked by surly Unionists. Why do I campaign for Scottish independence when I don’t live there? It’s simple: because I want to go home.

Let’s tidy up, get the tea on, and prepare for the homecoming.

This land is mine
God gave this land to me
This brave and ancient land To me
And when the morning sun
Reveals her hills and plains

Then I see a land
Where children can run free
So take my hand
And walk this land with me
And walk this lovely land with me