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By Jason Michael
ANOTHER ANNOUNCEMENT from Nicola Sturgeon this morning. Like so many others in the independence movement, I dragged myself to a screen to watch and listen in cautious anticipation of the news we have all been waiting for; a date for the next independence referendum. On getting out of bed, I tweeted that this was either going to be the best Friday or the worst Friday. Hearing that we would be again going to the polls to decide on the constitutional future of Scotland would knock the fact that we are being torn from the European Union tonight right out the park. Another fudge, another call for gentle persuasion and patience would leave us with nothing but an ugly Britain’s lager-soaked hangover and a taxi charge for soiling the backseat in the morning. Everything hinged on what Ms Sturgeon had to say, and it wasn’t great.
Less than fifteen minutes in I was too dejected to listen any more. The social media feed was telling me I wasn’t alone. Another over-hyped empty announcement from ‘the only person who can win our independence,’ another dead-end from ‘the only show in town,’ and another painful frustration from ‘the only party that can do it.’ Of course, I bought none of this. Reason and the experience of the past six years warned me to expect nothing, but hope – that twisted trick the psyche plays on us – had me thinking there was a chance; slim and unlikely, but a chance. Going to bed the night before, I confessed to myself that I was cautiously optimistic. That was a mistake.
Good morning friends. I can only imagine many of you have sore hearts at the moment. You do not need me being smug.… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Jason Michael (@Jeggit) January 31, 2020
It’s not the case I think Nicola Sturgeon isn’t working for independence. She is. But, as I see it, her strategy – her secret and ad hoc ‘plan’ – from what we can make of it, is misguided – even to the point of being doomed to failure. She opened well and had me moving closer and closer to the screen as she described the future we want and need:
A future where we continue to be an open, welcoming place to live study and work, and a valued member of the European family of nations. Make no mistake, after tonight, that future is only open to us with independence.
After tonight it’s Brexit. The United Kingdom is leaving the EU, and the British government – having ignored and insulted the Scottish government – was dragging us out against our will. After tonight the future we want and need will be closed to us, and if we think that after Brexit Britain will not readjust the constitution to further limit our ability to secure a referendum on independence, then we are sorely mistaken. From the start, Brexit was both an opportunity and a trap. The chaos it created at Westminster and across English society lavished on us one chance after another to exploit the situation to our benefit. To coin a phrase used by the Irish ‘Emancipator’ Daniel O’Connell, England’s difficulty was Scotland’s opportunity. Brexit complete, British power restored and consolidated in a new Tory majority, and the trap had sprung.
Rather than exploit the golden opportunities Brexit gave us, Nicola Sturgeon allied herself wholeheartedly to unionist anti-Brexit parties and campaigns in England in a foolish and vain attempt to save Scotland by saving England from itself. It was a disaster. Precious time and resources were squandered, and now we find ourselves here – powerless and rudderless only hours before Big Ben rings out England’s ‘Independence Day.’ In her speech this morning, Sturgeon again told us of our ‘cast iron mandate.’ Using the singular, of course, when the reality is honestly quite shameful; we have given her and her party four cast-iron mandates. We have reached that point where nothing more can be done, and where we have no one to blame but ourselves. In spite of the rhetoric – read: delaying tactic – of finding out the final details of Brexit, we have arrived at the line – and we still don’t know the final details. But by the time you are reading this Brexit will be part of our new reality, our new uncertainty. We have clawed defeat from the mouth of victory.
My apologies if this all reads too negative or defeatist, but these are not my words. I had no hand in this. I am only the messenger – one of a number of voices who have been crying from the wilderness and who have been ignored and mocked. Here I stand, I can do no other. What I am saying may not comfort you, my words may not come with a reassuring and selfie-friendly yellow lanyard. All I can offer you, dear reader, is my honest assessment of our present predicament as I see it.
Ms Sturgeon said she would do everything in her power to deliver an independence referendum ‘this year,’ but she says this after ceding to Westminster the right to grant or withhold a Section 30 order, and after the British Prime Minister has already said ‘No.’ From this she argues that we can try to force this issue in law, after it has already been spelt out to her that the law does not require the British government to grant a Section 30. She suggests that Britain cannot deny democracy to Scotland forever, that with enough pressure – possibly with the support of a Yes result in a ‘consultative referendum’ – the London government will be forced to give us what we ask. But asking nicely just won’t cut it. Britain has spent the past twenty years up to its neck in violent ‘regime change’ abroad, denying democracy to tens of millions of people. She seems to forget that when she was still in nappies the British government was massacring its own citizens in Ireland to deprive them of their democracy. The idea of Scotland forcing Britain to dole out democracy like sweeties is historical and political illiteracy writ large, and smacks of absolute insanity.
International law is a fine and beautiful thing – if you happen to be a wealthy, majority white superpower with a nuclear arsenal. Not so much if you’re a colony. We have as much chance of the international policeman blowing his whistle and running to our aid as the Catalans had on 1 October 2017. There is no international policeman. Not for us. And yes, I’ve read Craig Murray’s argument on this score. He argues it well, and he is dedicated to the cause, but he of all people should know Britain’s utter contempt for international law and human rights. He worked for them.
I am *so* f***king tired of being told by the SNP to go out and 'have conversations' with undecided folk or No vote… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Chris Cairns (@cairnstoon) January 31, 2020
If it helps any, perhaps I should say that I still believe independence is inevitable – even on our current trajectory. The problem is that our present course, as set today, and as we enter into the darkness and uncertainty of Brexit, is through the scenic route. This will not deliver a referendum this year or next. ‘We must focus on building and winning the political case for independence,’ said Ms Sturgeon. ‘That, after all, is necessary to win a referendum.’ Skirting the allusion here to more ‘gentle persuasion’ – a tactic which sounds more like a brand of lubricant than an independence winning strategy, she is wrong. Completely wrong. Referenda are not won by building and winning political cases before the campaign – a war for hearts and minds. Referenda are won and lost in the campaign. Thus it is and thus it always has been. Polls will not move significantly until we are fighting a political campaign. Her further suggestion that this war for hearts and minds will also ‘secure’ a referendum is equally nonsensical. As we have said, it would be entirely out of character for the British state to hand over democracy to a resource rich country because a majority in that country wanted it. This is nothing but rainbows and unicorns stuff, this.
Where I completely agreed with Ms Sturgeon was when she recognised that ‘the SNP is only one voice.’ Neither she nor her party speak for the whole of the independence movement. True, we are on the road to independence, and true, she has her supporters and followers. But the trajectory we’re on – the scenic route – is a long one, and we’re talking at least a decade. Getting a referendum this year or next demands a shock. Something has to give. The First Law of Physics:
A body at rest will remain at rest, and a body in motion will remain in motion unless it is acted upon by an external force.
Our object here is the independence cause – which is either paralysed by inertia or moving on a long, slow trajectory. Making this object move faster and in a more direct path requires the swift application of an external force. Friends, we are that force. It is up to us to set a collision course with the object of independence and knock it forward in the direction we want it to go. Our inaction, our passivity in allowing the SNP to dominate the dynamics of our politics, has put us in the position we are in, and only we have the power to set this right. We can work with the SNP or we can work against the SNP. If the leadership of this one voice in the movement refuses to work with us, then we can and should take matters into our own hands. It may take time to establish more political parties, and it may take more time to grow them to the size needed, but even this investment of time and energy will force the SNP to rethink and, if it doesn’t, still get to the goal of independence before the SNP will on its present course and velocity. As the Chinese proverb says, the best time to plant a tree is yesterday. The second best time to plant it is today.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks