On 18 September this year, the seventh anniversary of the Scottish independence referendum, a staggering thirty-four unionist-loyalist Orange Order parades will take place in just one city — Glasgow; one of two Scottish cities that backed independence in 2014. This of course is no coincidence. The Orange Order, in typical fashion — and with the consent of Glasgow City Council, intends to put on a triumphalist show of force to celebrate the victory of Britishness over Scottish independence and remind independence supporters of their place in the union.
A number of senior Conservatives have already voiced their concerns that there are powerful forces at play in the state, working to ensure the hardest possible departure from Europe. In the House of Lords, Nigel Lawson wasn’t joking when he said there is a “real danger that undesirable, but often understandable, insurrectionary forces will feel they cannot trust the British parliament [if a hard Brexit is avoided],” and that as a result “a very ugly situation could well arise.”
This style of political policing – all the way down from Whitehall in London to the police officer doing her or his job – has one objective: To subtly and then not-so-subtly intimidate people. The hope is that it will put average, law-abiding people off activism. No one wants to be of interest – no matter how friendly they are – to the police, and less still want to be watched by the intelligence services of the state. But what this is, in reality, is an attempt on the part of the British state to disempower us – the electorate, the demos of the democracy.
Had I thought this was the end of the insanity, I was wrong. The next morning, before heading east to Kirkcaldy, I was greeted by an email from Dale Miller at The Scotsman. Having failed to take me down with a rag, the union was upping its game. Miller’s task was to finish the job – I realised that much. On the train to Kirkcaldy I knew a juggernaut was headed my way, but I had no idea quite how vindictive this hack was going to be. He wanted a response by close of business. I told him he’d have it, and, so, after everything was wrapped up at the Kirkcaldy...
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this was a lie, that it was deliberate and calculated, and that it was the product of a group discussion. Yet, we could have easily gotten past this. In the piece I wrote I acknowledged the success of the marches and congratulated AUOB for what it has achieved. All that I asked was that the guys don’t lie to us again. They are not our leaders. Manny, Gary, and Neil are events coördinators. We must always be given all the facts and given the freedom to make up our own minds – all the time and without exception. We are an independence movement!
Lies are corrosive to political movements. Sure, they wanted to ensure we had a massive turnout – and we understand that – but that AUOB lied about what the police had said – which may even actually be a criminal offence – means our trust in what they say in future is damaged. It may come as news to some, but independence movements are sometimes the target of police violence. Of course, we want to keep things democratic and peaceful in Scotland, but in the event things ever go a little Barcelona we really need to know that those organising and leading marches...
As this not unlikely scenario plays out Scotland will find itself in much the same position that Catalonia now finds itself – having to break British law or hold a referendum without British consent in order to decide on its own future. We may imagine that the deployment of the police against the independence movement is impossible here, but when it comes to state politics and the political and economic necessities of suzerain states anything is possible. Over the past three centuries the British state has consistently used force against its own subjects to keep them in line.
Where does this mindless obedience lead us? We know fine well where this behaviour leads; history teaches us all we need to know, and this is precisely why we refer to the defence of “only following orders” as the Nuremberg defence. This leads to the deprivation of civil and political rights, the creation of categories of political crimes, and to the exact same thinking that brought us the re-education camps and concentration camps of the totalitarian and authoritarian régimes of the not so distant past – and this is no facile comparison.