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By Jason Michael
ARC OF PROSPERITY BLOGGER Tam Widmann asked in an article on Saturday “what can Scotland do” in a scenario in which powers are stripped from the Holyrood parliament and we are flatly refused a second independence referendum. Both contenders for the leadership of the Conservative Party, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, have committed themselves to preserving the union, with Hunt going so far as to say he would refuse a Section 30 order even if the Scottish government won a majority for independence in the next general election. All this comes on the back of Theresa May’s recent devolution review, which culminated in her issuing the threat that the British government will “use every policy lever” available to it to strengthen the union. It looks very much like Tam’s nightmare scenario is about to be realised. Polls indicate that the Scottish National Party is well on the way to securing another pro-independence majority and with it another mandate for an independence referendum. Soon, it seems, we will find ourselves on a collision course with the most powerful forces of unionism and the British state.
Tam’s brief discussion on this is rather too careful, in my estimation. It is a sober reflection and careful in its language. Only the day before I published on this website a somewhat less guarded analysis of the situation we are facing. Not only will the British government refuse us another independence referendum, it will also – if it cannot bring the SNP to heel and temper Scottish democracy – rescind the Scotland Act and close the Scottish parliament. Matters are fast coming to a head, and there is no middle ground between our two sides. The British state wants a hard Brexit and the security of Scotland’s resources, while we in Scotland cannot give a single inch on either of these demands. So, brace and prepare for impact.
Tam fae Arc of Prosperity (@arcofprosperity) July 06, 2019
Aware of this unavoidable crisis, Tam is thinking in the right direction. He grasps the necessity of the mobilisation of the rank and file of the independence movement. Facing down the uncompromising will of the Westminster government is a task so much greater than the capability of the First Minister, the Scottish government, and the organisation of the SNP. What is required is a national effort – and something more than marches, rallies, and demonstrations. What is required is agitation and militancy such as we have not seen in this country in living memory. But realising this, Tam stops short. We can suspect, considering Arc of Prosperity’s reputation for calm and rational – even zetetic reflection, Tam saw the hedge and stalled. Not wanting to be too hasty or ‘radical,’ he almost comes to a conclusion before taking stock and asking:
I must admit that my knowledge of successful acts of civil disobedience is very limited. What would work? How would the British state respond to these acts? What else can Scotland do to convince Westminster that Scotland should be listened to? How big a role will the Scottish Government play in all this…?
The time for coming to that conclusion is upon us. Whatever way we look at this, this is a zero-sum game – the winner takes all. Theresa May and her British administration have arrayed their forces and are ready to pounce. Whoever strikes first – and this is crucially important – gains the initiative and the upper hand. If measures are taken to limit the Scottish parliament or close it down before we are ready, then the fight is lost. At that point all democratic and peaceful avenues to a referendum and independence are barred. Don’t worry, no one is giving them ideas. They have gamed this scenario a thousand times. As you have likely already guessed, this is a call to action. It is an alarm alerting us to the fact that preparations must now be made. We must be awake, ready, and on the move.
So, let’s answer the question. Yes, Tam is right. This calls for mass civil disobedience. But more, it calls for organisation and discipline, it calls for ordinary people to take action and to take risks. It calls for resolve and a true and forceful demonstration of the will of the Scottish people out on the streets. Yet – and again, this is important – it calls for universal restraint. It is not only because I am a pacifist that I say this: It demands peaceful non-coöperation and passive resistance. Any measure of physical force violence is folly. We do not have the capacity to wage an armed struggle against the British state, and nor are we prepared as a society to suffer the consequences of Britain’s response. Having worked in peace and reconciliation in Ireland after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, I have an intimate understanding of what such a conflict would do to Scotland. We are not going there!
The unionist press is doing its job. This means we should keep doing ours. We are a peaceful, non-violent, inclusiv… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Jason Michael (@Jeggit) January 30, 2019
Physical force violence – be it by individuals, small groups, or something more organised – will hand Britain the excuse it needs to rain down fire on all our heads. The vast majority of Scotland does not want this, and anyone taking this road will alienate the greater part of the independence movement and thus critically weaken the cause of independence. So, as we say, keep the heid. We have been a credit to ourselves and an example to the whole world. Our movement and cause have come this far without a single drop of blood being spilt, without a single shot fired – and that, considering the history of independence campaigns around the globe, is no small feat.
However, pacifism is not passivism. Taking the road of peaceful non-coöperation and passive resistance does not mean that we roll over. On the contrary, it means that we fight with other implements – our wits and our resolve. Even before the British government makes its first move, we have to have moved. There is no shortage of actions we can take to disrupt the British administration in Scotland. There is plenty we can do to harass the instruments of the British state and make the governance of our country impossible for a state whose authority over us we reject. Writing them down here might be unwise. As you know, I have already become a “person of interest” under Schedule 7 for my writing and public speaking. Still, if this crisis materialises as I suspect it soon will, I will be on tour around the country again.
A lesson from Gandhi and Indian independence: The country that refuses to be governed will never be ruled. https://t.co/9fUhprg4Km—
Jason Michael (@Jeggit) June 23, 2019
But rather than stopping short, let’s consider the more pedestrian tactics. In the event that it becomes clear that the intention of the British government is to limit or suspend the Scottish parliament we must create mayhem. There is an unwanted nuclear submarine base that can be blockaded by thousands of activists. On Pacific Quay in Glasgow there are the offices of the BBC waiting to be occupied by people willing to get in and lock the building for as long as it takes. Goodness, there’s even a gorgeous new building for the Secretary of State. It too can be occupied and locked up. What is important is that no one – no matter who they are – is deliberately harmed. This is why organisation and discipline are essential. We will not be harassing people who are going to sit back and take it. The British state, beginning with the police, will act against us. Courage and outstanding actions empower others to do the same. Radical and militant action is contagious. The more energetic the British response, the more we will gather to us, the more momentum we will build, the more effective we will become. With greater numbers we will exhaust the resources of the British authorities and swell into a powerful and activated militant national movement. It is at this point in the development of our response that we can begin to strike – bringing everything that matters to the British exchequer in Scotland to a grinding halt. By sheer force of will we will wear Britain down.
By closing our parliament Britain will be committing a crime against our democracy and our sovereignty. At that moment its claim to us and its claim to our civil obedience ends. Every law intended to safeguard the British state and dominate Scotland ceases to have effect. At the closure of the Scottish parliament we have every moral and legal right to defend our country and to assert our Claim of Right. No matter how hard it tries, Britain will never defeat us so long as we stay united and work together, bearing every blow it deals us with perfect resolve and unwavering determination never to give up. The more powerful we become, the more force it will use. We must remain committed to peaceful methods – come what may. Britain will try with all its might to break us – and it will try, but our faces will be set like flint, we will be in solidarity, and we shall not be defeated. In the end, as is always the way, we will overcome. Prioritise Scotland: Have solid determination to do what’s best for our families and all our futures, and we will be victorious. Thìg ar Latha.
Nonviolence and Peace Movements