Tweet Follow @RPJblog
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.
England's weakness is Scotland's opportunity.—
Jason Michael (@Jeggit) March 24, 2019
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.
Our inability to tolerate dissenting opinion is not a sign of strength. It speaks of insecurity and weakness.… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Jason Michael (@Jeggit) March 24, 2019
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?
Lara (@Lara_Scotland) March 24, 2019
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.
Street philosopher - "a man with a van" - was telling me all about Scottish independence. Apparently Scotland is ac… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Jason Michael (@Jeggit) October 19, 2018
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