By Jason Michael

IN THE PAST FEW DAYS Craig Murray and myself came under considerable fire online for our criticism of the First Minister’s role in the People’s Vote rally in London. Craig and I came at this from quite different angles, and, of course, as pro-independence writers, we have an obligation and a duty to express our thoughts and conclusions – as do we all – even when these do not perfectly chime with the party line. Our criticism does not mean that we are against Nicola Sturgeon or the Scottish National Party or even independence. It does not mean that we are “plants” or “fifth columnists.” All that it means is that we are engaging in a national discussion in which we all have a responsibility – as is the case in every healthy democracy – to share our concerns and sound alarm bells when our conclusions and informed consciences demand that we do.

As a Republican, I subscribe whole and entire to the dictum – first coined by Irish nationalists at the outbreak of the First World War – that England’s difficulty is our opportunity. Right now, Westminster is presided over by the weakest and most shambolic government in living memory, the official opposition is in an even worse state of disarray, and both sides of the Commons are rent with in-fighting and schism. Coming at this from a Republican analysis, England has never been in more perilous difficulty. In the days and weeks ahead, excepting for either a miracle or a complete volte-face on the part of the Conservative government, the British state will slip headlong into its greatest social and political crisis since May 1940.

Assisting England at a moment like this, from this analysis, and following Napoleon’s sage tactical advice to never interrupt an enemy when it is making a mistake, is a serious and potentially fatal error in judgement. So, when I listened to Nicola Sturgeon addressing a rally in London calling for a so-called People’s Vote, I blew a gasket. Readers are perfectly free to disagree, but this is my assessment of the situation. Ultimately, I was pressured enough to delete social media updates to this effect, but I stand by my opinion, and yet respect the right of others to disagree.

In the course of the furore surrounding this dispute, however, a number of people approached me by private and direct message – that is away from the public forum – to bring me up to speed on the “secret:” Scotland’s “nuclear option.” Independence supporters were apparently raging at Craig Murray and I because we had “handed the unionist media ammunition” and risked blowing the lid on this top-secret nuclear option. This then is a subject that screams to be addressed, and I have decided to be quite candid about my thoughts on this dangerously naïve and conspiratorial idea.

The nuclear option runs like this: The union is “nothing more” than a treaty between two kingdoms, that the Scots – as a sovereign people – are “the highest authority” in Scotland; “higher than any government or monarch.” Therefore, by giving the people of Scotland a vote in the Brexit referendum, the British government has made a serious mistake. By rejecting Brexit, the Scottish people now have a simple right to rescind the union. Now that the Scottish government has pushed on every door, which includes Nicola Sturgeon appearing in London to call for a People’s Vote, and showing them all to be closed, we can now end the union by fiat – even without a referendum. Faced with a chaotic crash out from the European Union, without a Section 30 order, the Scottish government is now allegedly free to legally dissolve the union.

It is important to stress at this point that my appraisal of this is not intended to mock anyone. It is easy to understand why we buy into this sort of quick-fix thinking; we are tired, frustrated, and desperate. The legitimate fears and anxieties surrounding Brexit have all of us upset and desperately seeking a way out. But, unfortunately, such conditions are perfect for conspiratorial modes of thinking. It is wishful thinking undergoing a process of reification, but it is wishful thinking nonetheless. Before getting into a more in-depth critique, we can dismiss this theory because on the face of it its premises are patently absurd. If it were this simple to dissolve what is nothing more than a union of two kingdoms – a statement which assumes the equality of both parties to the partnership, Ireland would have done this in 1919. Moreover, why wait? If it were this easy, why would the Scottish government allow so many people to suffer and be effectively exiled from Scotland over the past two years when it could have dissolved the union the morning after the Brexit result?

As for the secrecy, this too makes no sense. We are supposed to believe this is a matter of law, and, if so, the British state would be well aware of it. The secrecy is entirely fictive, designed – one would guess – to give the listeners as sense of being in on something powerful yet clandestine, giving them a share in a collective empowerment. Having learned that this theory was being passed throughout the crowd on George Square this Saturday past, are we to seriously believe the police and the British security services are unaware of it?

Here, and again, I feel the need to spell out the difference between popular, ideological politics and Realpolitik – the politics of reality. In theory, Scotland is in a union of equals with England, and the Scottish people, under a Scots law notionality, are sovereign. But – and here is the serious part – this is not how the hegemonic partner, England, qua the British state understands the union of 1707. Legally defined or not, the English state has always understood the union was its absorption of Scotland – with Great Britain being little more than an expedient synonym for Greater England. We are free in “North Britain” to think of ourselves as a sovereign people, but the law of the land is Westminster’s law – a law and constitutional arrangement of absolute domination.

There exists no provision under this colonial framework for the dominated nations to rescind the union by fiat, and this was proved in the years immediately after 1707 when the Scottish MPs in the House of Commons, with some English support, sought to end the union. It was proved again after a series of uprisings north of the border, the consequence of which was the wholesale British military garrisoning of Scotland. The political reality is that Scotland is not in fact simply free to end the union when it sees fit. Scottish independence, as it has always been, is a matter of struggle – be that armed revolt as it was in the past or a democratic political process as it is at present and now must always be. There is no emergency eject button. There is no nuclear option.

In my harshest analysis of this thinking I would tend to think that this comes from the fact that our movement, at the grassroots, remains in parts rather politically illiterate. This was made perfectly clear to me in Edinburgh last year when I witnessed a man preaching from a van some conspiracy theory nonsense about Scotland actually being the legal property of the Catholic Church. Those who had gathered to listen were lapping it up, including people from whom I would have expected better. Yet, the reality is that there is no mystery. Our struggle has nothing whatsoever to do with the Rothschilds – an anti-Semitic cipher, a Jesuit plot, the Masonic Order, or virgins dancing naked in the moonlight before the turning of a mystical stone. This is all hokum.

Things are happening, for sure, and many on the ground – without much in the way of a political education other than street activism – find it difficult to make head or tail of these events. What they see are events; sometimes perfectly random or unrelated events, and in their desperation for “a plan” they concoct a pattern in the clouds. Taking a leak on people’s parades is something I do not particularly enjoy doing, but it is important we keep our feet on the ground. Sometimes a cigar, to steal an analogy from Sigmund Freud, is just a cigar. The events around us are often nebulous, and this is because everyone – even the Scottish government and the First Minister – is feeling around in the dark. There is no plan. But this does not mean that everyone is legging it about like headless chickens, rather it means that we do not know the future of the Brexit or the independence processes and we don’t know the outcomes of all the unforeseen consequences of all the events that are taking place around us.

Rather than having a plan or a secret nuclear option, what we have is a lot of people in the political sphere of the independence movement and in the grassroots working very hard to navigate a path to our shared goal through a constantly shifting maze of events and political realities. Conspiratorial thinking does not help us. Really it doesn’t. It gives people very false ideas of the omniscience and omnipotence of people who are just as human and fallible as we are. Such false promises lead to an inflated feeling of betrayal and frustration when things don’t go quite according to plan or when some of our projects fail. The reality is that there are no gods, just people like you and me who are using their place and their skills and educations to do their best for the cause.


The Appeal of Conspiracy Theories

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9 thoughts on “What is Scotland’s ‘Nuclear Option?’

  1. Excellent blog, well said Jason. 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻
    Just when we think you know what’s going to happen events in WM pull the carpet from under us.
    I would dearly like the SNP and Greens to publish some progressive ideas for government in this dream Independent Scotland. I’m hoping we’re going to tweek a Scandinavian style government, replicating many of their social, health and wellness ideas. Something to help people look forward to it and counter the fear of the No thanks voters. That would keep the Yes movement busy and something to work with just now.


  2. The slogan, or rather meme as we would say today, “England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity” was first coined by the Liberator, Daniel O’Connell (1775-1847 )

    He campaigned for Catholic emancipation—including the right for Catholics to sit in the Westminster Parliament, denied for over 100 years—and repeal of the Acts of Union which combined Great Britain and Ireland.

    To these aims, he organised “monster meetings”, the first peaceful methods of political agitation, which later influenced Emerson and Ghandi

    (NB just to remind people why his statue stands on O’Connell St, Dublin and why the Street has that name)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Since 2014 the Independence movement has made no real gains in the opinion polls, why? We have a political party who’s very existence is supposed to be the restoration of the Scottish nation, which I fully support. The SNP have already lost one referendum and yes I am out spoken regarding the SNP and their approach to Brexit and Independence as should anyone be who wants Independence. Let’s be clear Nicola Sturgeon is supposed to represent Scotland and is not a Westminster MP, running down England was a big mistake. Nicola and the SNP were elected on a manifesto pledge to hold a referendum on Independence if there was a material change in circumstances, i.e. taken out of the EU against our will. Shortly after the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016, Nicola came out of Bute House and made a speech regarding Independence, that she was going to request a section 30 order from UK government, holding a referendum was then passed in the Scottish parliament. In 2017 the SNP won the Westminster general election, but lost some MP, but the SNP still remained the largest party from Scotland in Westminster, Nicola Sturgeons whole stance on Independence then changed to, we had to wait and see what Brexit looked like, why was this?
    Just look at Sinn Fin a political party in Northern Ireland, who are also for to restore the Ireland of Ireland, they are and have made real gains from the unionist parties. Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU and Sinn Fin took no part in the March in London.
    The SNP should be fighting for their position within the EU as an Independent Country and not part of another Country and on their terms. Has the SNP stance changed, that we should stay in the EU and then seek Independence, rather than get Independence and then join the EU, then why not tell us, we have a right to know. The SNP are becoming like other parties (Labour) taking the Scottish peoples votes for granted, when all we are asking for is clarity.
    It stinks, that hundreds of thousands of Scots are march on rallies for Independence throughout the length and breadth of Scotland, without an appearance from Nicola Sturgeon either on the march or making a speech, but she can run to England for their march. On Sunday their was a Hope over fear demo in Glasgow, they wrote and invited Nicola Sturgeon, not only didn’t she appear, but she didn’t even reply to the invitation.
    The nationalists (SNP), have no part in British politics, their sole existence is to leave the union, not be part of it.
    What has these opinion polls shown us, Independence is achievable if it’s May’s deal or a hard Brexit, I haven’t seen support for Independence at 50% if we remain in the EU then seek Independence. We where told in January we would have an update on Independence in a couple of weeks, but no update given. Nicola was then asked by Patrick Harvie in the Scottish Parliament about Independence, he was told in a couple of days, then on the Andrew Marr show this weekend, she again changing from a couple of days back to in weeks.
    We have MP and MSP all out spoken about a further People’s vote, it is in this I have my doubts about us achieving Independence, how disastrous it would be for Scotland to lose a further referendum. We have also been told that a section 30 order isn’t needed and that Independence can be achieved by a Scottish Holyrood election, but Nicola Sturgeon states the only way to achieve Independence is by a referendum with the consent of an English MP (Theresa May) to obtain a section 30 order.
    I am totally disappointed with Nicola Sturgeon she hasn’t been strong enough in my opinion when it’s come to Scotland and the Independence as a whole, how could I regard myself as a faithful Scot and to the cause of Independence if I didn’t speak out when it needs doing, yes I am SNP member but Scotland is more important to me than any person or political party.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jason

    These rumours are a sign of panic. It means more and more YES are scared the SNP has missed the window for an orderly exit….and now they are looking at the approaching car crash and hoping beyond hope Nicola’s failure to already act is due to a secret Hail Mary plan in the last moments.

    If SNP fail to eject, it is hard to see the party recovering from that. I fear what we have been watching is too many wanting to be “parliamentarians” i.e..suffering agency capture. As I understood the popular YES desire – it was for SNP to speak up for Scotland and end the Union when the opportunity arose – not to ‘save’ England when they didn’t want to be saved.

    Just as a critique.
    – Geopolitically, things appear unconstitutional until they are magically not. Independence always appears when the global alliances reset…
    – England post-brexit is not the same power. It may be wounded and dangerous, it may be stronger than Scotland….but it may not remain a Hegemonic power post Brexit. (Yes, I can see a scenario where both the US and Europe see more benefit aligning with Scotland over England.)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I too am impatient but I see advantages to the FM supporting the remain side in Brexit.

    Brexit is going to lead to a ravaged economy in the parts of the UK that leave. Not because there is anything intrinsically wrong with leaving the EU, but because it is being done to advantage a group of foreign billionaires and corporate raiders who will then asset strip all the public bodies of the UK.

    The last thing an independent Scotland needs is a hungry war-mongering nation on its southern border. We know what to expect from past history,,,

    Further, Scotland’s bid for independence is immeasurably helped by support and sympathy from within England. When our FM addresses a crowd of a million English and gets rousing cheers, it’s a good thing for us.

    And as for the selfie, much as I share the distaste for Campbell, you have to recognise that he was one of the most effective operators in the Blair era. We could do with him on our side, or at least not opposing us.

    However, the independence movement is beginning to feel like the perpetual fiancee.

    It’s time to name the day.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Sturgeon’s selfie with Campbell warranted no more than passing comment or at worst a snide remark. But you went at it full throttle and finally convinced me that you’re not the asset to the yes movement that you’ve obviously convinced yourself you are. Nicola Sturgeon is the only thing that comes close tp being an international states person on this godforsaken island and with that comes a need for diplomacy. If she’s to become fickle about who she’s seen with it severely limits Scotland’s options as an independent country.
    Washing you dirty linen in public- not a good look.


    1. You’ll find I never mentioned the selfie with Campbell. Not once. It didn’t interest me. Perhaps, good assets check their facts. Thanks for the misdirected comment.


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