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Those Scottish Elections, and What Happens Now

Well, there is no denying an overwhelming SNP victory, with an increased vote, increased seats, increased percentage and double the support of the next largest party. Together with the Greens there is a substantial pro-Independence majority in the Parliament, so that matter is settled. Personally I would welcome an SNP/Green coalition with a guaranteed pro-Independence majority of at least fourteen (depending on who is presiding officer). It would remove the Tory jibe that there is not a majority government. But I suspect the SNP will prefer to go it alone again.

The dominant question is Indyref2. It remains my fear that Nicola does not want to actually move for Independence, and will merely continue to make pretend moves in that direction. In the campaign she continually hedged around with not just after Covid, but after the effects of covid, and then the final resort piece of hedging that a referendum must be “legal”.

Let me spell out my fears. I do not claim I am right, because it is impossible for me to know either Sturgeon’s mind, or the future. But it is my best prognostication based on my own assessment of the public indications, and information from sources including several SNP MPs and MSPs.

I expect no serious steps towards Indyref2 to be taken before 2023, on the excuse of Covid, except possibly some more meaningless “enabling” legislation with no dates, to keep the troops believing.

In 2023 I expect Sturgeon to ask Johnson for a S30 in the full knowledge he will refuse, and I expect an answer to be stalled until 2024. I expect that then Sturgeon will be happy to see the matter go to the courts, at the behest of one side or the other. Sturgeon knows very well that the UK Supreme Court will state that the Westminster parliament is ultimately sovereign, because within the UK it is sovereign. That is why we need to leave this union.

It is very probable that Johnson will amend the Scotland Act specifically to preclude a referendum without Westminster permission. By then we will be at the next Scottish parliamentary elections, and Sturgeon will stand in 2025 or 6 on the basis that a referendum must be legal, we must ask Johnson for a S30, and for him to refuse would be a “democratic outrage”. Which game can go on forever, with no real intention of achieving Independence.

I realise that there are many very good, decent people within the SNP who believe that I am wrong, and that Sturgeon has a genuine commitment to Independence, and has some kind of secret plan which is much more radical than I have outlined.

Well, we shall see who is right.

The worrying thing is that I have been saying this since 2016 and would think five years of inaction have proven me right already. I have a horrible feeling that if we arrive in 2026 after five more years of inaction, Nicola’s followers will still believe her. I see a continuing role for Alba for those who are actually serious about Independence, despite its frankly disastrous electoral debut (the causes of which were largely not Alba’s fault, but that is for another day).

Nicola and the SNP have of course it firmly in their power to prove me horribly wrong. They can prove me a complete fool by using this mandate to take bold and genuine steps and achieving Independence. In which case, not only shall I acknowledge I was a complete fool, I shall be delighted to do so.

I think this is a good time to utilise again one of the few decent things from the Guardian, its daily Covid graphs.

I have broadly supported lockdowns, aside the odd specific illogicality, and strongly advocate vaccination. But the facts are unanswerable – despite some people’s addiction to fear, they have to face it is just about over. Despite politicians’ addiction to the heady combination of increased personal exposure and popularity, plus increased control over the population, it is just about over. Vaccines have licked it in the UK. The risk of death to a non-geriatric healthy person is now as close to zero as makes no difference.

Oxgangs library has been turned into a Covid Testing Centre. I sat on a wall this morning and observed for half an hour as nobody went in and nobody came out, and the young man on the door tried to find ways to relieve his boredom. The time will shortly be with us when the public appetite will fade for daily briefings that say six people feel slightly unwell in Elgin.

England and Wales have enjoyed seven consecutive weeks of negative excess deaths (I can never find the Scottish figures on this). That means this spring is very possibly the least dangerous period you have ever lived through, in terms of the chance of you dying.

As the vaccine programme goes ahead, it gets ever safer. At some stage, the public are going to notice. We have had attempts to boost the fear factor by successive claims that the South African or Indian or Brazilian strain had arrived in Britain and was massively more deadly, massively more transmissible, evaded the vaccine, killed more young people. All of these arrived in the UK and none of the claimed disasters happened.

Of course, there could one day really be that super deadly variant. Equally, there could be an entirely new pandemic disease. But we cannot live our lives locked and cowering against these eventualities. For now, we should come out – vaccinated – into the sunlight again. The emphasis should be on border control and firmly restricting international travel until the rest of the world catches up. It should also be on overseas aid to help the rest of the world catch up. Biden has shamed our Tory government by his support for voiding patents on Covid vaccines, but the Tories have always seen the pandemic as personal profit opportunity.

But meantime, the strongest temporary border controls. As long term readers know, I am very strongly opposed to mass air travel anyway, only made possible because of disgraceful international complicity in not taxing fossil fuel for aircraft. Nobody actually needs a £30 ticket to Ibiza.

There is another issue where I doubt that Sturgeon genuinely believes what she says, or intends to act speedily, and that is trans rights. Here she will be under enormous pressure to deliver GRA reform very quickly, and that from her closest allies.

This is going to be interesting. Trans rights have been a very useful wedge issue for Nicola and extremely effective against her most dangerous internal rival, Joanna Cherry. Broadly similar issues, like gay marriage and abortion, were intensely controversial until carried into law, and then the matter was effectively settled as a matter of public debate. I expect trans rights might be similar and that Nicola has no real interest in settling the matter because she does not want the controversy to die down.

Personally I am extremely frustrated at the extraordinary alignment between

Never-never Independence supporters and trans rights,

versus

Independence Now supporters and trans exclusion

There seems no logical connection between the two, yet these strange alliances have become the most important dominant fact in the politics of Scottish Independence. My own opinion – which upset huge numbers of staunch Independence Now people on twitter – is that Alba’s strong identification with excluding trans women is one reason for its electoral failure.

Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist has become a pejorative term, but it seems to me a precise intellectual description of where an especially vocal section of Alba support was coming from, and voters found it rather weird and bitter.

I was considering founding a party which supports trans people, but at the same time wants Scotland to achieve Independence irrespective of any legal or political efforts at veto from London. But I fear there would only be me in it.

So the trans wedge issue has become so important to Nicola politically, I suspect she has no real interest in ending it. Besides, legislation is difficult. The current proposal is ridiculously over-simplified, as demonstrated by Gordon Dangerfield. I support self-ID and I extremely strongly uphold the principle that people should be who they want to be, and unlike Gordon I really don’t care about their genitalia and don’t see why anybody else should either. Mind your own business. But I can see that in certain rare and specific circumstances, like elite sport or people involved in criminal justice proceedings, there may be a need for some kind of arbitration of genuineness or good faith of a gender change; with good faith being the presumption that has to be overturned.

I might add that I particularly dislike the jibes at “women with beards” and the social media posts making fun of the physical appearance of trans people. There has been far too much cruelty flying around. I count Stuart Campbell and Chris Cairns as friends and allies who genuinely want Independence. But I cannot approve of this kind of cartoon, and I feel obliged to say so. How would it make you feel if you were a trans woman?

[Update I am told it is not Chris Cairns but is signed Stella. I had presumed that was part of the “joke”, but if it is not Chris I of course apologise to him].

It is of course also true that pro-trans activists are far too rude to people who disagree with them, with a small and defined group seriously nasty and out of control, including threatening violence. That group is closely connected to SNP leadership figures. This is all quite appalling. Frankly both sides of the debate need to find tolerance and empathy.

What is my prediction? I think the trans issue will be shelved, and Nicola will seek to placate Ms Blackman and her ilk by the abolition of jury trials in cases of sexual assault, as a first step, to be followed later by the abolition of jury trials in other crimes against women. Why all of that is an appalling idea I shall expand further one day, though I find it rather shocking that anybody would need that explained.

One thing I am sure of; we will see decisive action from Nicola on the abolition of juries long before we see any real movement on Independence. I would bet my life on that.

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The Strange Convulsion in Scottish Politics

On 24 March, two of the SNP MP’s most closely aligned to Nicola Sturgeon, Stewart MacDonald and Alyn Smith, asked for a meeting with the British internal security service MI5 to discuss cooperation against Russia. MI5 is the agency charged with countering perceived internal threats to the UK state; Scottish nationalists, environmentalists and anti-nuclear campaigners are among MI5’s major targets. Until a few years ago, the vast majority of Scottish Independence supporters would have regarded MI5 as a particularly egregious manifestation of their traditional enemy, the British state. Yet here was the SNP officially – MacDonald and Smith are the party’s Westminster defence and foreign affairs spokesmen – calling for cooperation with MI5.

To add to this extraordinary volte-face, there is no doubt that what lay behind MacDonald and Smith’s move was a desire to activate MI5 more openly against Scottish Independence supporters. Not only are they referencing Alex Salmond’s programme on RT and Tommy Sheridan’s spot for Sputnik, both Smith and MacDonald have been heavily involved in the long-term campaign to vilify online Independence activists and bloggers as Russian agents.

This is from the author of the above article, David Leask’s briefing to the secret UK government funded propaganda programme, the Integrity Initiative (emphasis in original):

For me and a great many other Scottish nationalists, our opponent is the British state. Why Russia should be viewed as the enemy of an Independent Scotland, just because it is in foreign policy opposition to the state whose imperial rule we are trying to leave, is not plain to us. Indeed, a different and more pacific foreign policy is a key benefit many of us see from leaving the UK. MacDonald and Smith – and there is no doubt they are licensed by Sturgeon, who put them in these positions – have no wish to challenge the UK’s role as a reliable, neo-con foreign policy satrap of the USA. They even put out a defence paper espousing multilateralism rather than the traditional SNP policy of unilateral nuclear disarmament, to remarkably little adverse reaction.

On the annual UN International Day of Solidarity With Palestine I noted on Twitter that, while many Labour and even Liberal MPs had tweeted to support, no SNP MP or MSP had. I was contacted by a well-known SNP MSP who informed me that they had been instructed not to speak out on Palestine – something which the SNP has in fact noticeably stopped doing. Stewart MacDonald’s own full time research assistant had the most rabidly pro-Israel Twitter history I have ever seen, with numerous tweets or retweets specifically praising the Israeli Defence Force but virtually none mentioning Scottish Independence. I have been struck recently by how many of the fierce online Twitter proponents of Nicola Sturgeon include Israeli symbols in their Twitter profile. Again this is a real break with the traditional pro-Palestinian stance of Scottish nationalists.

Sociological analysis of what has happened appears fairly simple. The SNP has been in power in Scotland for 14 years, and while the devolved administration is far from a genuine state, an annual Holyrood budget of £30 billion represents a very great deal of power and patronage. For those interested in exercising or benefiting from such power and patronage, the SNP has become the way to go. It has become the political Establishment in Scotland, and those with Establishment attitudes have flocked to it. All the political careerists who would previously have belonged to once-dominant Labour, have for over a decade flocked into the SNP. So have others with domestic agendas they wish to promote – often genuinely worthy, in devolved fields such as health and education – but who have at best a passing interest in Independence. The SNP has therefore entirely lost its radical edge.

For these new members, MI5 is a perfectly respectable part of the political Establishment. These people in no way see themselves as rebels, whereas the “old SNP”, even its grandees like my old friend Gordon Wilson, first and foremost viewed themselves as rebels.

Gordon Wilson was involved in the pirate “Radio Free Scotland” and the temporary liberation from Westminster Abbey of the stone of Scone. Can you imagine the condemnation from Sturgeon, Smith and MacDonald of such illegal actions today? They would be demanding meetings with MI5 on how to stop it.

Let me now turn to Nicola Sturgeon herself. As an entry point, I take Saturday’s interview where she stated she intended to serve a full five years as First Minister, and had not made up her mind about the 2026 election.

The extraordinary thing is that Nicola Sturgeon looks explicitly five years into her political future with no reference at all to the possibility that Scotland will be an independent state before then. The thought simply does not cross her mind.

Now there is no question you could ask me about what will happen in Scotland in five years, or what I personally will be doing in five years, to which I would not automatically start my answer with the observation that within five years I expect Scotland to be Independent, and the context will therefore be very different. And I am not First Minister. Nicola Sturgeon’s answer presumes she will continue to do her current job, and there will be an election under the current system, in five years.

She does not take into account the real possibility that following Independence it must be very likely there will be early elections to a new parliament. She does not take into account the real possibility that following Independence the SNP – which contains people of widely differing economic ideologies – might split. She does not take into account the real possibility that following Independence there will be a much broader realignment of political parties, as all but hardcore unionists accommodate to the new reality. She does not take into account the real possibility that an Independent Scotland may have a very different parliament, perhaps with two chambers and a different electoral system. She does not take into account that there might not be a First Minister in five years time – there may, for example, be an executive presidency.

No, when Nicola looks ahead she instinctively sees five more years of comfortable residency of Bute House as a benevolent and humane colonial administrator, who supports Independence in principle, but only if Westminster agrees, which she knows will not happen, and once Covid and its economic consequences, and all the other tough things that must be dealt with before she is ready, are out of the way.

And who knows when that will be? Not in the next five years certainly, in the mind of Nicola. Independence did not even occur to her as a factor that might affect her answer.

I have been sounding a warning that Nicola has no intention of achieving Scottish Independence, consistently since 2015. We have had SNP conferences with the word “Independence” not featuring even once in the entire agenda. We have had US Democratic Party Style slogans such as “Hope” and “Change” but never “Independence”. We had the 2016 Holyrood Election where Nicola declared she wanted unionists to feel “safe” voting for the SNP. We had the disastrous 2017 Westminster General Election campaign which Nicola fought entirely on the basis of “Don’t accuse me of pushing for Independence. It is not me that keeps banging on about Independence, it’s the Tories”.

With the large majority of Scots having voted in favour of remaining in the EU, and with the 2016 Holyrood manifesto having promised a new referendum in the event of “a material change in circumstances”, and with a solid SNP/Green majority in Holyrood, Brexit was obviously the ideal occasion for a Scottish Independence referendum. Instead we had Nicola devote two years to the campaign to keep the whole of the UK in the European Union.

I never agreed that the SNP should be striving to keep the entire UK in the EU, firstly because the effect of that would have been to help keep the UK together, which is the opposite of what the SNP is supposed to be trying to achieve; secondly because we Scots have no right to thwart the democratic will of the people of England and Wales who clearly voted leave.

To anybody who believes in Independence the answer was for Scotland to respect its democratic vote against Brexit by moving to Independence and staying in the EU, allowing Westminster to Wexit. Instead of seizing this opportunity, Sturgeon wasted two years campaigning, including in London, in what she evidently found the very congenial company of Alastair Campbell and Peter Mandelson, on a whole UK basis.

In this period she never found time to attend any of the mass marches for Scottish Independence. Her explanation was that she has to represent the entire population – which apparently did not apply to pro-EU demonstrations.

In January 2020, as the transition period came to an end and the UK firmly left the EU, the crunch time had come in which it was now or never for implementing the SNP 2016 Holyrood manifesto commitment to a new Independence referendum if there were a “material change of circumstances” – which everybody had understood meant Brexit. The SNP had repeatedly stated that Scotland would not be dragged out of the EU against its will. Would they act, or was that just hot air?

On 31 January 2020, the very day transition ended, Sturgeon made a showcase speech – in which she announced that she accepted that, as Johnson had refused a S30 request, there was no legal path to Scottish Independence.

For me to pretend that there are shortcuts or clever wheezes that can magically overcome the obstacles we face might make my life easier in the short term – but it would do a long term disservice to the independence cause that I, like so many, have dedicated my life to.

My job is to lead us down a credible path that can deliver independence.

And that is what I am absolutely determined to do.

To achieve independence, a referendum, whenever it happens – whether it is this year as I want, or after the next Scottish election – must be legal and legitimate. That is a simple fact.

It must demonstrate that there is majority support for independence.

And its legality must be beyond doubt. Otherwise the outcome, even if successful, would not be recognised by other countries.

And the best way to achieve that, even though it may not be ideal, is to reach agreement on a transfer of power to the Scottish Parliament, just as we did for 2014.

It has been suggested, though, that in the absence of such an agreement, it might be legal for the Scottish Parliament to hold a consultative referendum – to establish the opinion of the Scottish people even though agreement would still be required to implement a pro independence outcome.

So let me address that.

The issue of whether the specific constitutional reservation in the Scotland Act puts any form of independence referendum outside the powers of the Scottish Parliament – or instead leaves open scope for a non-binding consultative vote – has never been tested in court.

That means it cannot be said definitively that it would not be legal, but equally it cannot be described as being beyond legal doubt.

If a proposal for a referendum on that basis was brought forward it would be challenged in court.

If a court ruled that it was legal, it wouldn’t be a “wildcat referendum” as our opponents like to brand it – it would be within the power of the Scottish Parliament.

Should the UK Government continue to deny Scotland’s right to choose, we may reach the point where this issue does have to be tested.

I am not ruling that out.

But I also have to be frank. The outcome would be uncertain. There would be no guarantees.

It could move us forward – but equally it could set us back.

So my judgment at this stage is that we should use our energies differently.

To placate the pro-Independence wing of the SNP, she adopted a suggestion which is genuinely my own. I had formulated it four years earlier in June 2016, written about it frequently since, and pushed the idea in pro-Independence meetings the length and breadth of Scotland, including to SNP branches. In her speech, Sturgeon said:

In the first instance we will invite Scotland’s elected representatives – MSPs, MPs, the MEPs elected last year and council leaders – to come together to endorse a modern Claim of Right for Scotland through a new Constitutional Convention.

To declare that it is for the Scottish Parliament to decide whether and when there should be an independence choice and build support for that principle amongst civic Scotland.

In June 2016 I had written:

To resolve this requires a supplementing of current constitutional arrangements. The First Minister should therefore convene a National Convention consisting of all Scotland’s elected national representatives – its MEPs, MPs and MSPs united in a single democratic body merged on a one member one vote basis.

This body should draw up recommendations for the independence referendum, including on the future constitution, economy including currency, and international alliances of an independent Scotland, and should oversee negotiations with the EU. The next referendum could therefore present voters with a more definite prospectus for what the new Scotland will look like.

The world has changed radically. We must not be afraid to think outside the UK prescribed box in defining Scottish solutions.

I can find no evidence anywhere of anybody writing or promoting this idea other than me. I was surprised at the time that Sturgeon had picked up one of my ideas, but I should not have been. She did not mean it, it was only a sop to Independence supporters, the National Convention never happened and has been quietly dropped. Something else quietly dropped at the time was the 2020 SNP Spring Conference, which was cancelled in order to avoid member blowback from the abandonment of the 2016 Indyref2 mandate. In the confusion of the last year, people forget that the SNP Spring Conference was cancelled before most people had heard the word Covid, and Covid was emphatically not the cause.

More significantly, Sturgeon’s government intervened against the legal attempt by Martin Keatings and Forward as One to establish that the Scottish parliament had a right to hold an Independence referendum. Sturgeon thus helped to prevent what she still pretends to be her ultimate objective.

The truth is that Sturgeon loves being the darling of the Guardian. Her policies are simply those of Hillary Clinton – a rigorous system of identity politics, largely based around gender, with a few populist but not targeted spending measures – free tuition, personal care etc – but no effort to develop a critique of the factors that drive the massive wealth inequalities in society. Indeed, her economics are rigorously neo-liberal as embodied in her infamous “Growth Commission”, and she has notoriously chosen Benny Higgins, investment banker Chairman of Buccleuch Estates, as an economic adviser (and appointed that other right wing investment banker, Ian Blackford, as party leader in Westminster).

Like Hillary, Nicola’s neo-liberal economics are bound up with extreme hawkish cheerleading for neo-imperialist foreign policy – hence her instant support for Boris Johnson over the ludicrous Skripal narrative, over the ludicrous Douma narrative, over Ukraine, and her sanctioning of Russians under the Beds activities with MI5. Ian Blackford even called directly in parliament for the UK to enact regime change in Syria.

The relentless pursuit of gender identity politics has led to the peculiar fracture in the Independence movement over trans rights, where both sides of the debate invent utterly unreasonable positions and attribute them to the other side. Sturgeon has done everything possible to hammer this wedge issue into a fracture among Independence supporters, largely with the intent of damaging Joanna Cherry and others she views as rivals (and as someone who unflinchingly supports trans rights myself, I should say that Joanna’s views are much misrepresented and far more nuanced than generally understood).

The attempt to have Alex Salmond convicted on false allegations by team Nicola was the ultimate shot at discrediting the part of the SNP that was focused primarily on Independence, and ensuring the triumph of a new SNP focused primarily on identity politics, supportive of the neo-imperialism of the British state, and not interested in risking power for Independence.

The fascinating thing in all this is that the mainstream media, overwhelmingly unionist (particularly the BBC), realises that Nicola Sturgeon is not an authentic danger to the union, and therefore swung its weight very solidly behind Sturgeon, particularly in its reporting of the conduct of the Holyrood and Hamilton Inquiries and their outcomes. The unionists understand full well it is Salmond who threatens the union, whereas Sturgeon is very comfortable atop the devolution structure.

Yet there are still very many ordinary SNP members who are firmly committed to Scottish Independence, who believe that Sturgeon also is committed to Scottish Independence, and despite the history of the last seven years expect that she will deliver a referendum sometime. They have been played along ruthlessly, with the SNP in Holyrood introducing a number of utterly meaningless enabling bills and draft bills for a referendum to keep the troops happy.

After winning numerous Westminster and Holyrood elections while Sturgeon does nothing on Independence, the SNP asks people to believe that this time, this time they are serious, and really will have an Indyref2. But a great many terms and conditions apply and Sturgeon has still not stated she will support the defiance of a purported Westminster veto. It remains the fact that at this Holyrood election, the only chance most voters have of demonstrating support for Independence in the constituency vote, is to vote SNP. But should Nicola get her wish of five peaceful and personally prosperous years in Bute House as First Minister, that will never be the case again.

This is why we have the paradox that it is the most devoted, longest serving members of the SNP who have left the party to join Alba. Take Kenny MacAskill, an SNP member for more than forty years. Kenny was a member of the party in the days when it was a definite career disadvantage to be so, who pounded the streets in wind and rain for decades clapping doors, facing jibes and jeers with no realistic hope of being elected. I have now seen him roundly abused on Twitter and described as a “unionist plant” by people who have only joined the SNP since it has been the easy route to personal power in Scotland, and who are primarily motivated by identity politics.

One strange result of this is that it is the backbone of the SNP, the committed members who go round delivering the leaflets, who are more likely to vote Alba on the list vote than the ordinary SNP voter. One friend who was recently distributing election leaflets to SNP members who had volunteered for delivery, told me he had asked what people thought about the list, and 12 out of 13 SNP leafleteers were not going to vote SNP with their list vote, on the ground it is wasted (he did not ask them precisely who would get their list vote between Alba and the Greens).

It is the more committed SNP members who realise that the bizarre mathematics of the D’Hondt electoral system render a SNP list vote utterly futile in three quarters of the country and very severely devalued in the rest.

Equally it is the most active of SNP members who realise the party is continually backsliding over Independence. They studied the text of Nicola’s speeches and note the constant caveat about a “legal” referendum. It was the most active of SNP members who followed closely the actual evidence of the Salmond affair, as opposed to the biased reporting, and realised what was really happening. This turbulence among the most committed members in the depth of the SNP is simply swept over by the vast current of mainstream media adulation of Nicola. We therefore have a remarkable situation of an enormously popular leader at odds with nobody but the most engaged members of her own party – unless you count as engaged the more recent accretion of her Praetorian Guard of identity politics warriors.

It was interesting to watch SNP followers on Twitter change over the course of three months from absolute denial that Team Sturgeon were involved in acting against Salmond, to a position that Team Sturgeon were quite right to act against Salmond because he is an appalling man. A similar transition is in progress, from denial that Team Sturgeon have failed to act on a referendum, to a position that Team Sturgeon were right not to have a referendum because we would have lost it.

We started the last referendum campaign at 28% to 32% and got to 45% on polling day. That is what a campaign can do. There has been zero Independence campaigning from the SNP since. The notion that a campaign that would have started at 48 to 58 per cent, depending on timing, would have failed is simply daft.

I have been delighted to hear Alex Salmond speak on behalf of Alba of alternatives to the S30 approach and even of the fact that there are routes to Independence that do not involve referenda. This is where the debate must lie. The majority of countries in the entire world became independent in the course of my own lifetime. In only a very small minority of cases did the process involve a referendum. The International Court of Justice has ruled that the legislation of the state being seceded from, is not the determining factor of whether a state can successfully become independent in international law. If you think about it carefully, that must be true, or Estonia would still be Soviet and Slovenia would be Yugoslav.

The real split in the Independence movement is between those who truly believe the Scots are a people with the right of self-determination as enshrined in the UN Charter, and those who believe we need London permission to be “legal” and therefore, by definition, do not have the right of self-determination.

To put it more bluntly, Whitehall will never willingly accept the loss of Scotland’s magnificent resources – including maritime, energy, water, food and drink, hydrocarbon and other mineral, education, and above all human resources. Unlike Nicola Sturgeon, many of us do not believe that Johnson can simply stop Scottish Independence by declaring it illegal. We are prepared to take the steps that will be required, in terms of non-violent political action and possibly including civil disobedience on a national scale, for Scotland to be able to become independent.

That is the cause of the different paths now being taken in the Independence movement. That is the difference between the SNP and Alba. Do you really want Independence, or is it just a genteel discussion point?

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A Small Story of Scottish Justice

A story you will not have heard unless you read the Oban Times or are one of the 146 people who live on the island of Lismore, gives a profound insight into the abuse of state power in Scotland today.

You may recall that back in April 2020 Dr Catherine Calderwood, the Scottish government’s chief medical advisor, was forced to resign after breaking lockdown regulations on a family visit to St Andrews. One week later, it hit the newspapers that, in conflict with Scottish government advice, another key Scottish government figure in dealing with the epidemic, Prof Mark Woolhouse of the University of Edinburgh, had moved to his holiday home on the island of Lismore. Woolhouse is Professor of Epidemiology and a member of Nicola Sturgeon’s covid-19 advisory committee.

The Daily Record reported that people on Lismore were not happy:

One islander, who didn’t want to be named, said: “It’s just another example of hypocrisy.

“Locals in Lismore are far from happy because coronavirus refugees put the community in danger.

“There’s not even a doctor or nurse on the island.

“Just as Professor Woolhouse came here, various politicians were telling people to stay away from the Highlands and Islands.”

On 22 March Nicola Sturgeon stated:

“Those who do not normally live on the islands and who have traveled there in the last few days will be able to leave to reduce pressure but from now on ferries will be for those who live on our islands, who have an essential need to travel to and from the mainland and for essential supplies or business.”

Other Scottish ministers repeatedly made clear the message that the Highlands were not in a position to cope with any extra strain on health services, so people should not go there to escape the epidemic and if already there, should leave to where they normally lived.

Now Professor Woolhouse had left Edinburgh and taken his family to Lismore a few days before the official advice not to travel to the Highlands. But whether he had official foreknowledge of coming restrictions, or was acting on his own information as an epidemiologist, or it was genuine coincidence as claimed, I do not know. What is true is that Edinburgh University was still operating and teaching when he abandoned Edinburgh for his holiday home. And what is true is that he ignored government advice for non-residents to leave the Islands and return to their permanent homes.

Woolhouse was not pleased with the adverse publicity. He therefore started initiating lawyers to chill any media outlet which criticised his retreat to the island, with some success (though I note the Record report is still there). Four months later he was still on Lismore, and on 31 July 2020 an interview with Krishnan Guru-Murthy on Channel Four News included this extraordinary passage on live TV:

Krishnan Guru-Murthy: “Is that what you did yourself, a personal risk assessment, because you came in yourself for criticism for moving your family out to a remote Scottish island at the beginning of this pandemic”
Prof Woolhouse: “Krishnan that matter is under some legal dispute and if you want Channel 4 to join the legal case you are very welcome to we came for a one week holiday and got caught by lockdown like many thousands of other people around the country”
Krishnan Guru-Murthy: “And you are still there are you?”
Prof Woolhouse: “We are, as it happens. The community has been extremely welcoming and extremely supportive and we are very grateful to them for that.”
Krishnan Guru-Murthy: “So what is the legal sort of confusion, we are obviously not wishing to join litigation but I am wondering what it is you’re threatening when you say that, I mean what’s the confusion around what you have done.”
Prof Woolhouse: “As I have said, the matter, the reports in the press are under legal review…”
Krishnan Guru-Murthy: “So you didn’t move, you just happened to be caught there, is that what you are saying?”
Prof Woolhouse: “Yes, we just happened to be caught there, like thousands of other people”
Krishnan Guru-Murthy: But why haven’t you gone back, because your job is in Edinburgh”
Prof Woolhouse: “Yes, it turns out like many other people that it is entirely able (sic) to carry out this work remotely, thanks to some very fleet-footed work by my ICT team at the University of Edinburgh, for which I am grateful as well.”
Krishnan Guru-Murthy: So what do you say to those people, I am not putting this allegation to you myself, but you have been accused of hypocrisy haven’t you?”
Prof Woolhouse: “As I say, if you want Channel 4 to get involved in the legal action, you are very welcome to continue this line of questioning.”
Krishanan Guru-Murthy: I am asking you, when people accuse you of hypocrisy, what is your answer to that?”
Prof Woolhouse: “My answer is the matter is legal and I am ending this interview now. Sorry Christian (sic).

One thing we can say for certain is that Prof Woolhouse’s claim that he somehow got stuck or stranded on Lismore is a lie. Firstly, the ferries were kept going and non permanent residents were positively instructed to use them and go home. Secondly, a friend of his daughter had arrived with them for a holiday and managed to go home with no problems, as Oban Sheriff Court was to hear last week (of which more later).

Jeremy Gilchrist enters this story. He is a full time resident on Lismore for many years and, I must declare, a friend of my family. At the start of the pandemic, Jeremy along with other Lismore residents was alarmed at the small wave of outsiders coming to holiday homes on the island from cities and potentially bringing the virus with them. They started a facebook group on the subject, and Jeremy went so far as to make a report to the police of potential breaches of lockdown regulations. The reply from Oban police station was that the lockdown regulations were not, in March 2020, legally enforceable.

[I might make it clear at this stage that I do not really approve of this kind of Covid vigilantism, but can understand it in an island environment and I have no sympathy at all for those who own second homes in the Highlands and Islands, like Prof Woolhouse – or Elizabeth Saxe-Coburg.]

Islanders also started to make clear to the pandemic incomers they were not entirely welcome, simply by politely telling them so. Jeremy, who is 70 years old, on 30 May 2020 waved to Prof Woolhouse’s wife, who then stopped as she passed his home. He asked her “Why are you still here?” She claims that he added she should “go home”, which Jeremy denies saying, though it is not an unfair implication.

Some weeks thereafter, Oban police came to the island to see Jeremy Gilchrist and he thought that finally they were taking seriously the question of people coming to holiday homes on the island in breach of lockdown rules. He was astonished to find that the police were launching a high-powered investigation – into Jeremy Gilchrist.

That was the start of over six months of nightmare. Normally getting the police to come investigate a crime on the island is a difficult pull on limited resources, but suddenly there was unlimited police time available to go all over the island, interviewing residents and asking them if they had ever seen Jeremy Gilchrist act aggressively, and if he had ever been heard to say anything racist.

Think about that – you live on a small island and suddenly the police are asking all your neighbours if they know you for a violent racist. The strain was appalling. Jeremy Gilchrist was to learn from Oban police that the instruction to devote all these police resources was coming directly from the Crown Office. This is Scotland 2021, and Jeremy Gilchrist is, in the eyes of the Crown Office, just some pleb islander. Whereas Professor Mark Woolhouse, Order of the British Empire, is a member of the First Minister’s Advisory Group on Covid-19. Woolhouse is therefore within the charmed Scottish Government circle of those whose enemies get persecuted at unlimited Police Scotland and Crown Office expense. Especially as the whole story of the dubious adherence to lockdown advice of its own adviser was potentially politically embarrassing to the Scottish Government.

Jeremy Gilchrist therefore found himself charged by the Crown Office with “acting in a racially aggravated manner intended to cause alarm or distress”. Because Prof Woolhouse’s wife, Prof Francisca Mutapi, is a black Zimbabwean. She claimed in court that she had believed Gilchrist wanted her to leave the island because she was black, not because of Covid, and that he had wanted her to go back to Zimbabwe, not go back to Edinburgh.

There was no claim made that Jeremy Gilchrist had said anything about her being black or about Zimbabwe. Gilchrist had, as the court heard, been campaigning for all holiday home dwellers to leave the island, in accordance with official Scottish government Covid advice, with no reference to anybody’s ethnic origin. Prof Mutapi is a highly intelligent woman and herself a Professor of infectious diseases at the University of Edinburgh. The idea that – after the controversy over her family being on the island had been in the national newspapers – she genuinely did not understand why some people including Gilchrist wanted the family to leave the island, is a nonsense. It appears to be a very transparent attempt at hiding bad behaviour – deciding to live on the island during a pandemic – behind a protected characteristic. Astonishingly, this behaviour was then promoted by the Crown Office and Police Scotland.

Here is an extract of the report of the trial last week from the Oban Times:

Ms Mutapi told the court that as she jogged by she became aware of him ‘gesticulating’ and when she stopped to say hello, he had told her to ‘go back home’.
When she replied it was her home, she said he began shouting: ‘This is not your home, you don’t belong here.’
Ms Mutapi described her ethnicity as ‘black Zimbabwean’ and regarded his comments as meaning either go back to the cottage or go back home to Africa.
She said she felt ‘angry, attacked, sad and shocked’ as Scotland had been her home for the past 25 years and the holiday home had been in her husband’s family for 40 years.
She said Gilchrist had never made such remarks when he had seen her with her husband, so she decided to report it to police as he had singled her out as a woman on her own, she said.
But Gilchrist’s advocate Alan Gravelle said Gilchrist had simply meant go back to Edinburgh.
Mr Gravelle also asked Ms Mutapi why she had not told police that her daughter’s friend had travelled to Lismore but then left during lockdown to return to her parents.
‘I didn’t think the friend’s presence was relevant,’ replied Ms Mutapi.
She further denied Mr Gravelle’s suggestion that the racism complaint had been made to ‘silence legitimate criticism’ about their visit which had intensified after a national newspaper report in April slammed her husband for being on Lismore.
Gilchrist, a retired fruit grower, was subsequently charged by police with acting in a racially aggravated manner intended to cause alarm or distress – which he denied.
Giving evidence, the court was told that due to Covid, a neighbour of his with cancer had NHS treatment cancelled and subsequently died.
Gilchrist, who also has type-1 diabetes and a partner with disabilities, insisted his comments were not about the complainant’s ethnicity and denied being racist.
He disputed having used the words: ‘this is not your home’ and claimed he had simply asked her: ‘Why are you still here?’
‘They shouldn’t have been there and I had a right to ask why they were there,’ Gilchrist told the court. ‘I was concerned about the virus being brought to the island. It was about keeping people off the island for our safety.’
Prior to the incident, Gilchrist had also had reported a different second home owner to the police but was told there was ‘nothing’ officers could do.
He had consistently raised his concerns with the island’s Covid group, posted on Facebook and raised them face-to-face with other second home owners who had ‘not enjoyed’ hearing it, Gilchrist admitted.
Mr Gravelle said his concerns represented many on the island about people having fled the cities to holiday homes and the risk of introducing coronavirus to remote communities. Home to under 200 permanent residents, fears were rife about food shortages and the absence of NHS staff for its elderly population, while Lismore community leaders had also been warned to prepare for fatalities, the court heard.
However, Procurator Fiscal James Dunbar said Gilchrist had set out to ‘confront’ Ms Mutapi with aggressive behaviour and that she represented ‘one second home owner too many’ for him.
Sheriff Patrick Hughes told Gilchrist the trial had not proved his behaviour had been criminal or racist; it was clear he had become ‘obsessive’ about Covid.

It is important to note that the Procurator Fiscal put no evidence of any kind before the court to back his disgusting and unjustified assertion that Jeremy Gilchrist is a racist. There can be no such evidence as he is not any kind of racist, and the police had wasted much time on a politically motivated wild goose chase through is neighbours, acquaintances and social media.

I am struck by:

Procurator Fiscal James Dunbar said Gilchrist had set out to ‘confront’ Ms Mutapi with aggressive behaviour and that she represented ‘one second home owner too many’ for him.

It won’t come as a shock to many highlanders or islanders, that here the Crown Office explicitly sides with the second home owner over the resident. But note the procurator here demolishes his own argument that Gilchrist’s objection was anything to do with ethnicity. That was plainly a nonsense. In terms of his behaviour in talking to Ms Mutapi being “threatening”, remember he is 70 years old and unwell, and was stood outside his own front door.

Jeremy Gilchrist was acquitted at Oban Crown Court this week. But six months of his life had already been ruined, he lost tens of thousands of pounds in legal fees and he was wrongly labeled a racist by the police to the entire community where he lives.

There is never any shortage of police resources in today’s Scotland to investigate thought crime. Burglaries or riots in George Square, not so much. The Crown Office wasted substantial amounts of taxpayers’ money in large scale police investigation of Jeremy Gilchrist and in prosecution of accusations which were never going to result in conviction because they were plainly – simply – wrong. The politically directed Crown Office did so in order to assist the self-evidently spurious attempt to deflect attention from lockdown hypocrisy by a key Scottish Government adviser. This was another Crown Office decision about politics and media presentation, not about justice.

A final more worrying thought. These kinds of entirely unjustified persecutions in Scotland will become much easier for the Crown Office with the new Hate Crime Law. Ms Mutapi was undoubtedly caused offence by Mr Gilchrist, and belongs to a protected group. In the terms of the new law, I think Jeremy Gilchrist would be guilty, despite having no racist intent whatsoever. Interactions with members of protected groups will be on anything but a footing of equality under the new law, and the capacity for malicious allegation will be enormous and very difficult to refute. Which is why liberal democracies generally avoid such laws.

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Scotland’s External and European Ministry

Scotland must be a fully functioning independent nation in two to three years. We need to start now to understand and plan for the physical infrastructure of governance a modern state needs. Just one of the vast gaps at present is the ability for an independent state to interact with other states; that is, after all, what defines the very being of a state. Scotland will need its own foreign ministry. In short time.

That foreign ministry will need to be physically somewhere in the capital. It needs to be a prestige location that can host visiting foreign ministers and delegations and top level international meetings. The answer is staring us in the face in the old Edinburgh Royal High School, a truly magnificent though sadly neglected building.

Edinburgh Council has just taken the lease back from the prospective developers of yet another luxury hotel in the centre of Edisneyburgh, a name I use for the hollowed out tourist attraction which the centre of Edinburgh is fast becoming (Jenners is now to be yet another luxury hotel). There is a consultation in play on the future of the Royal High School. What worries me is that I have not seen a single element of that consultation that factors in the coming urgent question of the needs of Edinburgh as the capital of an independent state, nor have I ever seen any indication that Edinburgh Council or the Scottish Government have ever given the matter serious thought.

I have even seen it suggested that Independent Scotland will not need a foreign ministry, nor a defence ministry, because in these areas it can continue to cooperate with the British state. I should hope that I could forever destroy the argument for an Independent Scotland aligning with UK foreign policy in just nine words. I shall try:

Iraq. Libya. Afghanistan. Palestine. Yemen. Chagos. Catalonia. Trident. Rendition.

We simply cannot align ourselves with the butcher’s apron abroad. Quite simply, that would be to sacrifice a key attribute of a nation state. It would not be Independence. The immorality of UK foreign policy is a key motive for many Scots to want independence in the first place, myself included.

The UK Treasury admits that it receives (pre-covid) approximately £30 billion per year more in revenue from Scotland than is given back to the Scottish Government in block grant. In fact, numerous accounting tricks make that £30 billion an underestimate, but let us go with it for now. That money is spent on our behalf by Westminster, on reserved matters like Defence (including Trident), the Foreign Office, the Treasury, Immigration and Nationality, certain benefits and social services, and projects of UK strategic value, like (ahem) London’s crossrail, HS2 and the refurbishment of the Palace of Westminster.

After Independence, none of that £30 billion (in reality it will prove to be well more) will go down to London. All of it will be spent through Scotland, and the large majority of it will finally be spent in Scotland. That will of itself be a major economic boost, but for the purposes of this article I am concerned with the administration of that expenditure, all of which administration will on Independence be moved up from London to Scotland.

That means Scotland will be paying for a lot more civil servants in Scotland, rather than paying for civil servants in London. Scotland will need a Central Bank, a Finance Ministry, a Ministry of External Affairs, a Ministry of Internal Affairs (including immigration and nationality), a much expanded benefits ministry, an overseas aid ministry, a Ministry of Defence, and its own, but hopefully very small, security services. There will be others.

Recruitment should not be a big problem as many Scottish civil servants will be very happy to repatriate from the UK civil service. I do however caution against an automatic right for senior civil servants to transfer as many will have been steeped in neoliberal doctrine. Almost certainly, as with Ireland, London will have to grant a residual right to Scots to continue in London service, as much would simply collapse without them.

But we have to think where we can physically put all these civil servants. The truth is – and I know it is unpopular when I say this – the current Scottish Government is really only a glorified regional council, set up to placate a nation, and is extremely far from the scale of operation needed to run an actual independent state.

Just as there are those who think we should just continue to follow the UK Foreign Office, there are those who seem to think that bunging a few extra desks into St Andrews House will solve the problem. There has not been enough planning for the sheer scale of what is needed to administer a real nation state. Most European countries of Scotland’s size will have 20 to 25 separate ministries.

Sweden has 48,000 “core” civil servants in central government. Denmark has 68,000 civil servants working in “central administration”. By contrast, just 6,500 “core” civil servants work for the Scottish “government” at present. It is hard to find exactly equivalent figures because, while all these numbers exclude agencies, civil service jobs have been farmed out to agencies in differing degrees in different nations. Agency and other non-core civil servants working for the Scottish Government total around 11,000, but do also have their equivalent extras in Sweden and Denmark. What is plain is that after Independence the Scottish Government central operation, once it really is an actual Government and not a Mickey Mouse one, will have to be on an entirely different scale.

Here is a little illustration. The Scottish Government’s civil service only has one Permanent Secretary, and perfectly bluntly she would never have made it to five grades lower than that in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office or the Treasury. After independence Scotland will need at least 20 proper permanent secretaries of high quality.

There are however 24,500 UK civil servants based in Scotland who work for the UK government. Many of these will simply be able to be transferred in – the very large majority of them (17,200) being from the Inland Revenue, and Revenue and Customs. But do not think this solves Scotland’s problems. There is a large difference between processing tax returns and running a state’s macro-economic policy, and the very large majority of all the UK civil servants employed in Scotland are non-policy staff.

The policy apparatus of central ministries aside, there is a useful legacy of physical government infrastructure currently housing these UK civil servants, much of it helpfully outside Edinburgh. Immigration and Nationality will have a good base in Glasgow for example and can expand into spare space in the overseas development administration in East Kilbride, which is larger than Scotland will need. But for reasons of democratic accountability the policy headquarters of these ministries, with their ministers – a whole new layer of Administration in Scotland – will have to be near parliament and the seat of government.

Speaking of parliament, I am convinced that Scotland will need after Independence far more by way of checks and balances on its executive, not least of which should be a bicameral parliament. That second chamber too will need to be accommodated somewhere, with its staff.

The new UK government buildings near Waverley station will provide a little of the answer to all of this, but will by no means be enough. Is there a masterplan for what ministry will go where, into what buildings – or even what the ministries will be? I hope you understand now why it is essential to commandeer the old Royal High School, and start to earmark other buildings in the capital.

To return to the question of external affairs, I hope in general we will avoid UK nomenclature for ministries. Ministry of External Affairs has a less pejorative tone than “Foreign Office”. I would tend to make it “Ministry of External and European Affairs”, to make plain Scotland views Europe differently. I also hope we will follow Ireland in eschewing the Imperial relic of the Commonwealth, and unlike the British Tories we will have a separate ministry for development aid.

As a state it is essential to interact with foreign states, and to do that, we must have Embassies abroad. Scotland will need Embassies in all European states, in major countries outside Europe including in the developing world, and in all fellow major oil-producing states. Ireland has 57 Embassies abroad, Denmark 71, Portugal 75 and Sweden 80. I suspect Scotland needs about 75.

In addition there are consulates, which will provide assistance to Scottish businesses and individuals abroad, and often issue visas, but do not handle political relations. If you need assistance in Los Angeles an Embassy in Washington is little use, for example. Ireland has 109 consulates and Portugal 250.

This is not at all as expensive as it seems. The UK has a major owned property estate abroad, much of it belonging to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and some of it literally palatial. An Independent Scotland will be entitled to 10% of that estate. Some of that will be able to be used directly to provide the offices and accommodation we will need, while some might be sold to provide funds for suitable premises.

To return to Edinburgh, I would expect at least 80 Embassies to set up in the Scottish capital, and possibly a good few more. Apart from the Europeans and major players, it is a fact of life that countries always like to open Embassies in really nice places for diplomats to live. There are over 1,000 foreign diplomats accredited to Sweden, of whom 667 are actually resident in Stockholm, the rest visiting. There will be a similar number of non-diplomatic Embassy staff. Edinburgh will need offices for at least 80 Embassies, some of them fairly large. While it is not up to the Scottish government to provide the premises, the demand will be significant.

Some 800 foreign diplomats with their families will substantially impact the higher end Edinburgh property market. That is aside from the much larger problem of housing perhaps 10,000 new Scottish Government civil servants in the capital.

These are excellent problems to have, and solving them will provide a major macro-economic boost to Scotland. But if the Scottish Government is serious about moving to genuine Independence within a short timescale, much more work needs to be underway on preparing Edinburgh to be a real capital once again.

If you want to campaign to bring about that Independent Scotland without delay, consider joining Now Scotland.

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Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Now Scotland Launched

Last night Now Scotland, the new mass membership campaigning organisation intended to embrace the entire Yes Movement, was launched and immediately gained its first 1,000 paid up individuals. This is the website to join up. I am going to repeat here my post on its origin and purpose, then answer a few questions that arose on social media during last night’s launch:

There is a real need for a campaigning organisation for Scottish Independence which people can join and whose sole focus is attaining Independence early, as a matter of urgency. Now Scotland, of which I am an elected committee member, is being launched to fill that gap. It is not a political party, will not stand candidates and all who support Scottish Independence as an overriding political priority are welcome. It is aimed to be the mass membership organisation to which everybody in the wider Yes Movement can belong.

It is intended that it will improve on 2014’s Yes Scotland by going into the campaign with a membership, funds and a democratic structure.

Now Scotland grew out of a series of assemblies last year organised by AUOB, and the aim is to take the kind of energy and unity generated by AUOB and extend it from marching and into other areas of campaigning. But like AUOB, it is the agency and energy of the people which will drive the activity. Now Scotland is not, and will not become, top down.

All of us who believe in the Independence of Scotland need to look beyond what divides us – and it would be dishonest to fail to note divisions have been deepening. We need to concentrate on what unites us, move forward to Independence on an irresistible popular wave, and then set about building that better country of our own.

To answer the questions that have arisen, Now Scotland is not linked to any political party, or website, and will not support any political party. It is a single issue campaign for Independence. Members of several parties are on the committee, and remember the Yes Movement is much wider than any party or parties – for example, the obvious Yes parties aside, polls consistently show that between 30 and 40% of Labour voters in Scotland support Independence. All are welcome, of all parties and none.

We do not take positions on issues other than Independence. The entire aim is for everyone to unite together just for the purpose of campaigning for Independence. It is very much an organisation set up to generate real campaigning activities in which you can participate. It does not matter what your view is on any individual, that is irrelevant to the wider cause of Scotland. We embrace socialists and capitalists. We have pro-EU and anti-EU members. The common denominator is that Scotland must be free to make its own decisions, and not have them imposed on us from Westminster.

There are different parties and organisations available for people to also join to pursue particular issues and it is good that people do so. We do not ask anyone to change their other political activity, if any. All we ask is that differences are left at the door of Now Scotland and that Independence supporters unite to campaign together. It is to be very much a membership-led organisation, and my view, or any individual’s view, is worth no more than that of any other worker for Independence.

The Independence Movement needs this. Let us now build the momentum that will take us to national freedom.

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Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

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Alternatively by bank transfer or standing order:

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Account number 3 2 1 5 0 9 6 2
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Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

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Now Scotland

There is a real need for a campaigning organisation for Scottish Independence which people can join and whose sole focus is attaining Independence early, as a matter of urgency. Now Scotland, of which I am an elected committee member, is being launched to fill that gap. It is not a political party, will not stand candidates and all who support Scottish Independence as an overriding political priority are welcome. It is aimed to be the mass membership organisation to which everybody in the wider Yes Movement can belong.

It is intended that it will improve on 2014’s Yes Scotland by going into the campaign with a membership, funds and a democratic structure.

Now Scotland grew out of a series of assemblies last year organised by AUOB, and the aim is to take the kind of energy and unity generated by AUOB and extend it from marching and into other areas of campaigning. But like AUOB, it is the agency and energy of the people which will drive the activity. Now Scotland is not, and will not become, top down.

All of us who believe in the Independence of Scotland need to look beyond what divides us – and it would be dishonest to fail to note divisions have been deepening. We need to concentrate on what unites us, move forward to Independence on an irresistible popular wave, and then set about building that better country of our own.

The formal launch is on Friday and then I shall post again with a link to the website and joining information.

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“Credible Open Source Reporting”, the Intelligence Services and Scottish Independence

I write as somebody who held Top Secret clearance for 21 years, with extensive daily use of Top Secret material that entire time, and the highest possible specific codeword clearance above Top Secret for 11 years. I personally conducted for the FCO the largest “action on” operation in GCHQ history. (“Action on” is the process of declassifying top secret material for, in my particular case, government to government use). I have also given evidence in person in a three hour appearance before Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee.

The BBC has all morning been trailing the imminent report by the Intelligence and Security Committee as showing Russian interference in the Scottish referendum campaign according to “credible open source reporting”. It is hardly a surprise that Westminster has weaponised its report to attack not the British Establishment but Scottish Independence.

“Credible open source reporting” is a piece of formal security service intelligence assessment jargon. It is very important you know exactly what it means. It means material not from secret human intelligence or from communications intercept, but material which has been published, in the media or academia. Stuff that is as available to you or I as it is to the intelligence services. Not intelligence material at all. Nothing to do with the Intelligence and Security Committee.

The last high profile deployment of the “credible open source reporting” formulation was the dirty dossier on Iraq Weapons of Mass Destruction, where the PhD thesis of Ibrahim al-Marashi was the source for untrue claims about Iraqi WMD. Al-Marashi, now a Professor, states his work was distorted and altered to suit the agenda of the Iraq War.

Mr Marashi’s student thesis, Iraq: Its Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception and Intimidation, was not only plagiarised. It was also altered, as the British government and intelligence establishment sought to strengthen what in truth was uncertain evidence about Saddam’s efforts to develop WMD.

The point of “open source reporting” is that it is published and we can all see it. We could have seen al-Marashi’s PhD thesis. But Blair’s Iraq Dossier did not give the name of the source. It did not say “according to the student Ibrahim al-Marashi”. It said “Intelligence services say that credible open source reporting says…”.

“Credible open source reporting” is a propaganda formulation designed to fool you and give a false imprimatur to any dubious piece of published work.

So the grand Intelligence and Security Committee will not say “According to the article in the Herald by the Russophobe nutter David Leask and the publicity seeking Jennifer Jones”… It will say “According to the intelligence services, credible open source reporting says…”

But actually it is absolutely no more than the former. Dressed up falsely as “intelligence”.

All of Scotland must ask. “Open source reporting. Can I see it then?”.

Yet our so-called journalists are all parroting “open source reporting” without one of them asking where it is.

UPDATE – we now have the report itself. A footnote gives the justification for its “credible open source reporting” on Scottish Independence. It is incredibly flimsy:

44 For example, it was widely reported shortly after the referendum that Russian election observers had suggested that there were irregularities in the conduct of the vote, and this position was widely pushed by Russian state media. We understand that HMG viewed this as being primarily aimed at discrediting the UK in the eyes of a domestic Russian audience. More recently, we note the study by Ben Nimmo – #ElectionWatch: Scottish Vote, Pro-Kremlin Trolls, 12 December 2017.

Yes, that is Ben Nimmo, £5,000 a month consultant to the Integrity initiative, and his identification of scores of ordinary Scottish tweeters as “Kremlin trolls”. You will recall that one sure sign of a Kremlin troll according to Nimmo was use of the phrase “cui bono”. Nimmo was Leask’s source for the Herald article I quoted above.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Scottish Independence is Within our Grasp if We Heed the Lesson of Toom Tabard

There will never again be a route to Scottish Independence deemed legal by Westminster. 2014 will never be repeated. The UK will never willingly give up a third of its land, most of its fisheries, most of its mineral resources, its most marketable beef, soft fruit and whisky, most of its renewable energy potential, a vital part of its military including its primary nuclear base, its best universities in a number of key fields including life sciences, its ready pool of intellectual and professional talent. Johnson is for once honest when he says keeping the Union together is his top priority. It is the top priority of the entire British establishment.

David Cameron only agreed to the 2014 referendum because he thought the result would humiliate and kill off Scottish nationalism. Support for Independence was at 28% in the polls at the time he agreed. Westminster had the most enormous and horrible shock when support for Independence grew to 45% during the campaign as many people for the first time in their lives heard the real arguments. The Whitehall panic of the last week of the 2014 referendum campaign is not something the British Establishment ever intend to repeat.

There is a charmingly naive argument put forward by some that, if support for Independence can be grown to 60% in the opinion polls, Johnson and Westminster will have to “grant” a referendum. This is the opposite of the truth. If support for Independence is at 60%, the very last thing that the Tories will do is agree a referendum they will lose. Their resistance will be massively hardened. Remember, the Tories could have zero Tory MPs in Scotland and still have a majority of 73 in Westminster. There is no political damage for Johnson in unpopularity in Scotland. In England, his anti-Scots stance is very popular with their Cummings core support base of knuckle-dragging, ill-educated racists.

The “intellectual justification” for this stance was trailed by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on the Marr programme this morning. Irrespective of the wishes of the majority in Scotland, the UK has a duty to stop Scottish Independence, to prevent anarchic secessionist forces being unleashed across Europe; he named Italy, France and Spain.

Westminster will never agree another referendum, and the more we look like winning it, the less they will agree to it.

Nor is there a route to a “legal” referendum through the courts. If a court rules that a consultative referendum is legal under the current Scotland Act (which it might well be), then the Tories will simply pass new legislation at Westminster to make it illegal. They have already done this at Westminster to overturn Scottish parliament decisions, and the UK Supreme Court have already made clear that the Sovereignty of the Westminster Parliament cannot be challenged.

Scotland can become independent, but becoming independent is, without doubt, going to be illegal in terms of UK law – which is to say Westminster law. There will not be a route to Independence agreed with Westminster.

If you believe in Scottish Independence, you believe that the Scottish nation are a “people” within the meaning of the UN Charter, and thus have an inalienable right of self-determination. That means that Westminster has no right, by legislation or by any other means, to prevent the Scottish people from exercising their self-determination.

I am sorry, but this is the fact: If you believe Scotland should only move to Independence in a Westminster-approved process, you do not really believe in Scottish Independence at all.

Which brings us to Nicola Sturgeon. Her much-trumpeted speech on the way forward following Brexit was disgraceful in explicitly stating that any referendum must be held with Westminster agreement, and that any referendum held without Westminster agreement could be “illegal”. She used the words “illegal” and “wildcat” to denigrate the idea of Scotland acting without Westminster permission.

Even the most loyal to Sturgeon of all major Independence bloggers, like James Kelly and Paul Kavanagh, could not support Sturgeon on this point.

What Sturgeon said amounts to an explicit acknowledgement of UK sovereignty over the Scottish people as both legitimate and immutable. She is accepting that the Act of Union did permanently alienate the right of self-determination. Sturgeon should heed the tale of Toom Tabard as to what respect English rulers show to Scottish leaders who accept their authority. Her speech reinforced my view that she really is much too comfortable in her role of colonial governor.

And yet…

When Sturgeon started talking about calling a Constitutional Convention I first scoffed thinking she was merely fulfilling my prediction that her “plan” would be to start yet another talking shop. But then I was astonished when she outlined the potential membership – the elected representatives of Scotland sitting together, constituting MSPs, MPs, (former) MEPs and council leaders.

I have explained at length over the last two years my proposal for a route to Independence that would lead to recognition by the international community. Donald Tusk today confirmed all I have been saying about the enormous sympathy there will be in the EU towards welcoming Scotland back, now the UK has switched status to third country state. [I knew Donald Tusk reasonably well when I was First Secretary of the British Embassy in Warsaw in the 1990s and he was an out of office politician the same age as me. I should like to think I had an effect!]

But the heart of what I was proposing is this, as I put it in December 2018

The Scottish Parliament should then convene a National Assembly of all nationally elected Scottish representatives – MSPs, MPs and MEPs. That National Assembly should declare Independence, appeal to other countries for recognition, reach agreements with the rump UK and organise a confirmatory plebiscite. That is legal, democratic and consistent with normal international practice.

Or as I put it again two weeks ago:

We should assemble all of Scotland’s MEP’s, MP’s and MSP’s in a National Assembly and declare Independence on the 700th Anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, thus emphasising the historical continuity of the Scottish state. The views and laws of London now being irrelevant, we should organise, as an Independent state, our referendum to confirm Independence, to be held in September 2020.

Please do read the articles linked if you have not already done so. They explain how Scotland can legitimately become an Independent nation without regard to UK domestic law.

Now, until Sturgeon’s speech, I had never seen anybody else but me put forward the proposal that the way forward is via an assembly of all MPs, MSPs and MEPs, giving the triple legitimacy of democratic election. Sturgeon has enhanced this by adding council leaders.

There is a huge difference between an assembly – or convention – of elected representatives, and an appointed one of the great and the good. This new assembly proposed by Sturgeon is very different indeed in that respect from the Convention of the same name that helped formulate devolution.

Now I do not think for one moment that Sturgeon has convened this Convention to declare Independence. But an assembly of Scotland’s MPs, MSPs, MEPs and council leaders will have a clear Independence majority numerically and a massive Independence majority intellectually. It will have an extremely strong claim to be a properly representative assembly whose members each have a democratic mandate. The French Revolution was of course similarly precipitated by constitutional innovation convening a National Assembly combining the different Estates, and that Assembly was swept along by fervour to take proto-revolutionary measures which went far beyond the initial positions of any of its members.

The dynamic of a new constitutional body whose members feel they command legitimacy, should not be underestimated. The convening of this body will be a real constitutional innovation. We need to make sure, that like that French National Assembly, they can clearly hear a huge mob outside their windows, demanding radical and speedy change.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Westminster Cannot Block Scottish Independence

Boris Johnson’s facetious, point-scoring reply to the formal request from the Scottish government for agreement to a second Independence referendum is an act of extreme arrogance. An off-the-cuff campaign remark from a single politician has no weight in weighing the will of a nation, and I presume Johnson is not arguing that every political statement Nicola Sturgeon or Alex Salmond has ever made has the force of law.

The “once in a generation” remark has no more force than “die in a ditch”. It is not contained in any official document, and appears in neither the Edinburgh Agreement nor the Smith Commission report. For Johnson to base his refusal of a vital democratic step on such a flimsy pretext is extremely arrogant. It is born of colossal self-confidence. He is perfectly confident the highly centralised Westminster system will allow him simply to ride roughshod over Scotland.

Johnson is of course right. You may be surprised to hear that I agree with the analysis of McHarg and McCorkindale published today that a legal challenge arguing the Scottish Government’s right to hold a referendum is a waste of time, not least because if such legal challenge looked like succeeding the Tories would simply pass Westminster legislation outlawing the referendum explicitly. There is no doubt whatsoever that such legislation would be upheld by the UK Supreme Court under the doctrine of the Sovereignty of (Westminster) Parliament.

I also have no doubt that a futile and time-wasting court action is going to be a key part of the Scottish Government’s approach in response to Johnson, of pretending to do something about Independence a few more years.

McHarg and McCorkindale are quite right on UK Constitutional Law, which is where their expertise lies. They know very little about public international law and still less about international politics.

The truth is that UK Constitutional Law is as irrelevant to Scottish Independence as Soviet Constitutional Law was to the question of Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian Independence. The UK is disintegrating and not the smirk of Johnson, the frippery of the UK Supreme Court nor the witterings of lawyers can hold it together.

Independence is not a matter of domestic law. It is a matter of international law alone. Independence is the existence of a state in relation to other states. It is gained not by any internal process- internal process is utterly irrelevant, and in 95% of cases does not involve a referendum – but by recognition of other states, formalised through the General Assembly of the United Nations.

I touched on these points in my brief statement at the AUOB press conference after the march on Saturday.

In its judgement on Kosovo, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) specifically confirmed that the agreement of the state being seceded from was not necessary for Independence. That is the position in law, whatever any UK court may say. Indeed it was the UK government itself that put this argument most clearly to the ICJ in the Kosovo case.

5.5 Consistent with this general approach, international law has not treated the legality of
the act of secession under the internal law of the predecessor State as determining the effect
of that act on the international plane. In most cases of secession, of course, the predecessor
State’s law will not have been complied with: that is true almost as a matter of definition.

5.6 Nor is compliance with the law of the predecessor State a condition for the declaration
of independence to be recognised by third States, if other conditions for recognition are
fulfilled. The conditions do not include compliance with the internal legal requirements of
the predecessor State. Otherwise the international legality of a secession would be
predetermined by the very system of internal law called in question by the circumstances in
which the secession is occurring.

5.7 For the same reason, the constitutional authority of the seceding entity to proclaim
independence within the predecessor State is not determinative as a matter of international
law. In most if not all cases, provincial or regional authorities will lack the constitutional
authority to secede. The act of secession is not thereby excluded. Moreover, representative
institutions may legitimately act, and seek to reflect the views of their constituents, beyond
the scope of already conferred power.

That is a commendably concise and accurate description of the legal position. It is the legal opinion of the Government of the United Kingdom, as submitted to the International Court of Justice in the Kosovo case. The International Court of Justice endorsed this view, so it is both established law and the opinion of the British Government that a state has the right to declare Independence without the agreement or permission of the original state and its political or legal authorities.

I have continually explained on this site that the legality of a Declaration of Independence is in no sense determined by the law of the metropolitan state, but is purely a matter of recognition by other countries and thus acceptance into the United Nations. The UK Government set this out plainly in response to a question from a judge in the Kosovo case:

2. As the United Kingdom stated in oral argument, international law contains no
prohibition against declarations of independence as such. Whether a declaration of
independence leads to the creation of a new State by separation or secession depends
not on the fact of the declaration but on subsequent developments, notably recognition
by other States. As a general matter, an act not prohibited by international law needs
no authorization. This position holds with respect to States. It holds also with respect
to acts of individuals or groups, for international law prohibits conduct of non-State
entities only exceptionally and where expressly indicated.

So the key question is, could Scotland get recognition from other states for a Declaration of Independence? The attitude of the EU will be crucial and here Catalonia is obviously a key precedent. But it is one that has been totally misunderstood.

The vast majority of the politicians and functionaries of the EU institutions viewed the actions of the Francoist government of Spain in assaulting the people of Catalonia who were trying to vote, with extreme distaste. But they held their noses and supported Spain. Because over 20 years experience as a diplomat taught me that the EU functions as a club of member states, who will support each other in almost any circumstance. So Spain was supported.

But the UK is shortly going to stop being a member. It is Scotland, as a potential member with a long history of valued membership and a firm intention to join, which will have the natural support of the EU, the more so as there will be a strong desire to get Scotland’s fishing, energy and mineral resources back within the bloc. The disintegration of the UK will also be encouraged as a salutary lesson to any other states that consider leaving the EU. The political forces within the EU are very, very strongly behind recognition of Scottish Independence.

Once the EU decides to recognise Scotland (and crucially it is not a decision that needs unanimity in the EU vote, an extremely important and overlooked fact) the rest will be easy. The UK is detested in much of the developing world for its continued refusal to decolonise Diego Garcia, for the Iraq War, and for the whole history of colonialism.

So how should Scotland proceed? My advice would be to declare Independence at the earliest possible opportunity. We should recall all Scottish MPs from Westminster immediately. We should assemble all of Scotland’s MEP’s, MP’s and MSP’s in a National Assembly and declare Independence on the 700th Anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, thus emphasising the historical continuity of the Scottish state. The views and laws of London now being irrelevant, we should organise, as an Independent state, our referendum to confirm Independence, to be held in September 2020.

The key criterion which governments have traditionally used to recognise another state is control of the state’s internal territory. (They do not have to use that criterion, each state can recognise on whatever basis it wishes, but that is the usual one cited). This is where the Catalonian Declaration of Independence failed, the Catalan Government never managed to enforce it on its own ground.

There is going to be no process of Independence agreed with the British government. We have to take Independence, not beg for it. At some stage, there is always the danger that the British government may try to react by sending in the British Army to enforce Westminster’s will. If we believe we are an independent nation, we have to be prepared to defend ourselves as an independent state should the worst happen. Calling a confirmatory referendum as the first act of the Independent state would make it difficult for Johnson to justify sending in the British Army to try to prevent it, but we cannot rule it out. Hopefully that will not involve anyone getting killed, but we must be plain that Westminster will never voluntarily allow us to leave and may physically attack us if we try.

I appreciate this may all sound very unpleasant and confrontational.

We have two alternatives now – we stand up for ourselves and our inalienable right of self-determination in international law as defined in the UN Charter, or we grovel before Johnson’s smirk and try various “legal” and “constitutional” avenues in terms of the UK’s utterly irrelevant domestic legislation. Which will get us nowhere, slowly.

The time has come for Scottish Independence. With a referendum denied by no fault of ours, we must seize the moment and take the Independence for which they will not let us vote.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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been

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Petition for Official International Observers for Next Scottish Independence Referendum

Please sign the petition

This UK Government cannot be trusted to behave democratically. We have seen that in the prorogation of the Westminster Parliament and in tricks like not providing tellers to count votes against an amendment, causing it to pass. Ian Blackford, SNP leader at Westminster, described Boris Johnson as behaving “like a dictator, not a democrat”.

It is highly likely that the Scottish people will shortly be voting on whether to become an independent nation again. It is essential that process be scrutinised by formal international invigilation, to make sure the conduct of the referendum is fair.

Please sign the petition for international observers to the next Scottish Indyref. Only the UK government can request an OSCE observer mission (it must be a current member state that asks), therefore the petition must be addressed to Westminster, not to Holyrood.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, through its Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, is the organisation specifically charged with monitoring democratic processes in Europe, and in which the UK government is an active participant in monitoring other countries’ elections.

Not only will the OSCE send a large team to observe the conduct of the campaign and physical balloting and counting process, they will send an advance team of experts with international experience in monitoring media bias in campaign situations, with a particular emphasis on state media. These experts will produce a careful and scientific quantitative and qualitative analysis of the extent of media bias, and this analysis will be presented to all the member states of the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe. The very presence of the international monitoring team will be a strong deterrent to bad media behaviour, and will boost public confidence in the process.

In the 2014 referendum there was massive anti-Independence bias through all the privately owned media and also, blatantly and demonstrably, within the BBC.

There was a crucial and highly significant breaking of the rules of the referendum when the Unionist parties combined to issue the (since spectacularly broken) promises of “The Vow” during the official purdah period of the last week. Suspicion was attached by many to some extraordinarily high postal vote turnouts in certain localities. All events of this kind would be subject to real time scrutiny were an OSCE observer mission present.

We are frequently told by the government that, when it comes to their programmes of mass surveillance of the population, “if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear”. Those who wish to claim that it is axiomatic that both the media coverage and the physical process of an Independence referendum would be fair, have nothing to fear from OSCE scrutiny. It is an organisation of which the UK is a contributing member anyway, so there are no grounds to objection to its monitoring.

The OSCE handbook on the media monitoring they will undertake is well worth reading and gives a valuable insight into how thorough they are. They do not just measure crudely the amount of time given to each side. They assess the quality of coverage of each side, the inferences and body language of the presenters. They look at the legal, institutional and ownership framework in which journalists operate and the pressures on them to self-censor, as opposed to just considering whether there is formal state censorship.

It is essential that all sides in a future Independence referendum have trust in the fairness of the process. There is every reason to believe that British state institutions, including both the BBC and the Electoral Commission, need to be subjected to outside scrutiny.

Wherever you are in the UK, and whatever your stance on Scottish Independence, please sign and support this petition for strengthening confidence in the fairness of democratic process. The restoring of Scottish Independence and the break-up of the UK state is a major step; it is essential that the process involved in the decision is accepted by all as fair.

Obviously an observer mission takes some time to organise and needs to be in place right from the start of any campaign period, or even before. Like all international organisations, the OSCE’s processes take some time to agree between members. Therefore it is essential to launch this petition now rather than wait until a referendum is called.

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION

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40% of Scottish Labour Voters Support Independence

The headline from the major new Ashcroft poll of Scottish public opinion is that Independence now has 52-48 majority support, and that is excellent news. Ashcroft himself is a Machiavellian Tory but his polling effort involves much larger samples than regular newspaper polls and has a generally good record. For me, the most interesting point in his new Scottish poll is that fully 40% of Scottish Labour voters in 2017 now support Independence.

This has important repercussions. The Labour leadership will no longer be able to portray Independence as beyond the pale for decent thinking people, or to portray Scottish nationalism as akin to Viktor Orban, without alienating a huge swathe of its own support. It certainly ought, at the very least, to encourage the Labour Party in supporting the Scottish people’s right to a new referendum, against Tory attempts to block it.

But it also has ramifications for how the SNP and wider Yes movement conduct ourselves, particularly online. Nationalists must stop automatically writing off Labour supporters as unionists. There remains a Blairite rump still powerful in Scottish Labour who are rightfully despised, but we need more readily to acknowledge how much we have in common with a great many ordinary members of the Labour Party, both in terms of supporting Independence and in terms of the more socially inclusive Scottish state we wish to build.


The dates in brackets indicate that the affiliation refers to how people voted in the election or referendum of that date.

It is not surprising that many more Labour voters are looking to Scottish Independence as a reaction to a historically extreme right wing government in London. But as I blogged at the time, already in 2017 25% of Scottish Labour voters supported Independence and a significant number who had voted SNP in the 2015 General Election had reverted to Labour in the 2017 General Election. The reason for this was simple – the SNP showed little sign of pushing on with Independence anyway and our dreadful, lacklustre 2017 GE campaign was conducted entirely on the basis of “don’t mention Independence and deny we are pushing for it whenever the Tories bring it up.” No wonder some Indy supporters drifted away.

As ever I looked to the estimable James Kelly for his interpretation of the latest poll, and found that I had beaten him to it. I did however find his last article touching on precisely the subject of whether the SNP should put Independence at the forefront of their campaign in the likely event of an early General Election. As James puts it:

“But we’ve all heard the mood music from the SNP leadership: in a snap pre-Brexit election, they’re more likely to emphasise their plan to stop Brexit, albeit with a pledge to hold an independence referendum.”

I too have picked up that mood music, and I have also picked up the massive groundswell of discontent with it. The SNP must put Independence right at the forefront of a general election campaign, and I entirely endorse the Angus MacNeil option of declaring the general election a de facto Independence referendum if the Tories persist in their refusal to countenance a formal one.

For the SNP yet again to put Independence on the backburner and to lead their campaign on Brexit would be a massive mistake. Firstly the surest way for Scotland to remain in the EU is to become an Independent country. It might end up with more SNP MPs at Westminster, but for those of us whose object is to have Scotland out of the UK and no SNP MPs at Westminster at all, the SNP is looking more and more like an organisation over-interested in its own institutional strength and in highly paid UK jobs for its highheidyins.

In short, Tommy Sheppard’s brilliant 2015 quote “We came to Westminster to settle up, not to settle in” is in danger of turning Tommy – for whom I have high regard – into a liar if they don’t rediscover the sense of urgency that quote conveyed.

Secondly it is not our right to keep England and Wales in the EU if they wish to exit. If we genuinely believe Scotland should be an Independent country, we have to accept that we have no right to interfere in English politics and no right to force them to stay in the EU, against the democratic wish of English voters, just as they have no right to drag us out of the EU, against the democratic wish of Scottish voters.

The SNP seems to have its heart set on being heroes on the UK stage and beloved of the Guardian and Alastair Campbell by thwarting Brexit for the UK. Well, bugger that. I want to destroy the UK and I want Scottish Independence. The rest is detail.

Whether England remains or leaves the EU is a decision for the residents of England, not for me.

Thirdly, an all out bid for Independence will attract back to voting SNP many of those Independence supporting 40% of Scottish Labour voters, many of whom voted SNP in 2015 but not 2017. I can see no especial reason they should change their vote if the SNP does not look a great deal more serious about Independence than it does today.

Finally, if you can’t achieve Independence while Boris Johnson and his bunch of ghouls are lurking around No. 10, when can you? Forget waiting for a better time.

If the SNP fails to strike all out for Independence now, and gets further distracted by the effort to stop Brexit for the whole UK, I shall not be alone in wondering how many of the 8% of SNP voters in the Ashcroft poll who do not support Independence, are at or near the top of the party.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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BBC Lying Propaganda and the Tory Party Scottish Conference

This is a photo of the Secretary of State for Scotland addressing the Tory Party Scottish Conference (courtesy of Wings). I have analysed this and other photos taken from different angles, and learnt this.

There are only six rows of seats at the Scottish Tory Conference. The front row has 24 seats, the second 26, the third 28, the fourth 32 (sic), the fifth 34 and the sixth 36. That is a total of 180 seats.

How many delegates does a party Conference have, which only has 180 seats? There is, for example, no separate gallery for the media. In this photo there are, including those standing, less than 200 people.

My wife is a film producer. She is completing her first two feature films as producer this year, having previously done a couple of shorts, including one short as director. In supporting her, largely by making the tea, I have picked up a basic smattering of comprehension of camera work.

The BBC coverage has been, systematically and undoubtedly deliberately, utilising shots that create a completely false impression of the numbers at the conference. This has been done by setting the cameras low and well zoomed in, to show speakers above an apparent tight sea of heads and shoulders. Wider shots and higher shots have been quite deliberately eschewed. Any side shots or front shots have again been quite deliberately low set and highly zoomed. A tight zoomed diagonal shot across the hall will get sixty heads densely in it, and create the false impression of a packed crowd.

I want to emphasise the question of directorial choice. These are deliberate directorial choices to make the Tories look good, and deliberately to present a distorted perspective of the size of the audience (and the strength of the Tories) to the viewer. The media are, in effect, deliberately hiding from the viewer how tiny the Tory Conference is.

This is the only audience reaction shot used – twice – by the BBC during their main news item on Theresa May’s speech to the Scottish Tory conference:

This is of course only the visual representation of a much larger con trick in the boosting of Ruth Davidson. The BBC Politics operation in Scotland was devoted all weekend to the return of Ruth Davidson from maternity leave, and she was touted again and again, breathlessly and shamelessly, as a future First Minister after the next Holyrood elections. Not once did any BBC presenter point out that the Tories currently stand at 22% in Scotland, and that Ruth Davidson’s chances of becoming First Minister are, even with full on MSM adulation, much the same as my chances of being Britain’s Next Top Model.

The myth of the free press in the UK is finished. The media is owned by right wing billionaires, or by the Tory state. Look forward next week to hearing how Ruth shot a round of 23 at Gleneagles. While driving a tank.

Finally, here is a statistic to cheer you up. The 1,200 plus Tory councillors who have just lost their seats in the English local elections represent precisely an astonishing 1% of the entire membership of the Tory Party. Not of Tory councillors, 1% of all Tory members just lost their job. That is a very happy thought.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the articles, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Cui Bono? David Leask, Ben Nimmo and the Attack on Ordinary Scottish Nationalists

We know for certain that the Integrity Initiative targets Scottish Nationalists, because two of its luminaries, otherwise unconnected to each other, David Leask and Ben Nimmo, collaborated on a massive attack piece in the Herald identifying individual SNP supporters as “Russian Bots”.

Ben Nimmo works for the Atlantic Council, funded inter alia by NATO. He is also on a retainer of £2,500 per month from the Integrity Initiative, in addition to payments for individual pieces of work. For his attack on Scottish Nationalists Nimmo was therefore paid by the Atlantic Council (your taxes through NATO), by the Integrity Initiative (your taxes) and by the Herald (thankfully shortly going bankrupt). Leask claims to have received nothing but a cheese sandwich from the Integrity Initiative, but has briefed them in detail on Scottish nationalism, attended their seminars, and they have included Leask’s output in their “outcomes” reports to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (on which more in a few days’ time).

I took apart Leask and Nimmo’s horrendous attack at the time, revealing among other things that one of Nimmo’s criteria for spotting a Russian bot or troll was use of the phrase cui bono.

Nimmo’s role as witchfinder-general for Russian Bots appears very remunerative. His August 2016 invoice to The Institute for Statecraft, apparently the 71st invoice he had issued to various neo-con bodies that year, was for £5,000.

It is interesting that rather than sort code and account number, his invoice gives IBAN and BIC, used for payments coming from abroad.

There is a very important aspect of the detailed minute of David Leask’s briefing for the Integrity Initiative, which CommonSpace cut out of the extracts which they published. Leask says that the Integrity Initiative are “pushing at an open door” with the SNP leadership and the editors of The National, who he characterises as reliably anti-Russian and pro-NATO:

YATA – there would probably be a lot of studenty anti-NATO responses. But that might be more of a reason to do it. But SNP reversed NATO policy when it realised what Russia was up to (under influence of Nordic/Baltic allies)
 Mainstream politicians don‟t want to challenge the fringe normally but they’re starting to. Stewart McDonald (defence spokesman) pitching NATO – “friends in Norway, Balts etc are in it”. SNP foreign policy chiefs have very anti-Kremlin, anti-RT, pro-Ukraine rhetoric.
 Immigration not an issue in Scotland.
 Pushing at open door – allies in Scotland about disinformation. Putin may want to sow discord among Scottish nationalists. Pro-independence sister paper had headline complaining Russian trolls attacking Sturgeon. http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/16094929.SNP_top_brass_warn__Sturgeon_is_being_targeted_by_Kremlin_trolls/
Yes campaign had attacks on servers and cyberactivity, thought it was the Brits but then concluded it was probably Russians. http://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/referendumnews/15771388.Yes_leaders__Don_t_be__naive__about_Russian_online_meddling_in_independence/
 SNP going to Ukraine – to reassure allies they are not pro-Russian.

I am afraid Leask is not wrong. The continual willingness of the SNP leadership to endorse Britnat anti-Russian rhetoric without question is a nagging worry for many nationalists. Precisely the same department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office which funds the Integrity Initiative, funds the Westminster Foundation for Democracy which paid for this joint Britnat/SNP leadership group event at the last SNP Conference, featuring a Ukrainian politician also used by the Integrity Initiative.

Read that carefully, and note that it is not just a discussion on the Ukraine – no harm in that – but one which is openly anti-Russian. The very title, on countering Russian disinformation, is literally straight out of the Integrity Initative’s handbook. Two SNP MP’s took part, including the foreign policy spokesman.

Remember that meeting was on the conference fringe at which I was not permitted to hold a meeting on preparing for Indyref II. An awful lot of Nicola loyalists tell me that, in appearing at present to be much more interested in keeping the entire UK in the EU, rather than striking for Scottish Independence, the leadership are playing a brilliant tactical game.

Other explanations are available.

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The Scottish Parliament Does Have the Right to Withdraw from the Act of Union

The London Supreme Court last week not only confirmed that the Westminster Parliament could overrule at will any Scottish Government legislation, irrespective of the Scotland Act and the Sewell Convention, but it also ruled that Westminster had already successfully done so, by retrospectively passing provisions in the EU (Withdrawal) Act that overruled the Bill on the same subject, within the competence of the Scottish Parliament, that had already been passed by Holyrood.

Not content with that, the London Supreme Court confirmed that London ministers may, by secondary legislation, under the Scotland Act decree laws for Scotland that are not even passed through the Westminster parliament.

Which leaves Scotland in this extraordinary situation. English MPs or English ministers in their London Parliament can, at any time, impose any legislation they choose on Scotland, overriding Scotland’s parliament and Scotland’s representation in the London parliament. Yet, under the English Votes for English Laws rules of the London Parliament introduced by the Tories in 2015, Scottish MPs cannot vote at all on matters solely affecting England.

That is plainly a situation of colonial subservience.

I am firmly of the view that the Scottish government should now move to withdraw from the Treaty of Union. Scotland’s right to self determination is inalienable. It cannot be signed away forever or restricted by past decisions.

The Independence of a country is not a matter of domestic law it is a matter of international law. The right of the Scottish Parliament to declare Independence may not be restricted by UK domestic law or by purported limitations on the powers of the Scottish Parliament. The legal position is set out very clearly here:

5.5 Consistent with this general approach, international law has not treated the legality of
the act of secession under the internal law of the predecessor State as determining the effect
of that act on the international plane. In most cases of secession, of course, the predecessor
State‟s law will not have been complied with: that is true almost as a matter of definition.

5.6 Nor is compliance with the law of the predecessor State a condition for the declaration
of independence to be recognised by third States, if other conditions for recognition are
fulfilled. The conditions do not include compliance with the internal legal requirements of
the predecessor State. Otherwise the international legality of a secession would be
predetermined by the very system of internal law called in question by the circumstances in
which the secession is occurring.

5.7 For the same reason, the constitutional authority of the seceding entity to proclaim
independence within the predecessor State is not determinative as a matter of international
law. In most if not all cases, provincial or regional authorities will lack the constitutional
authority to secede. The act of secession is not thereby excluded. Moreover, representative
institutions may legitimately act, and seek to reflect the views of their constituents, beyond
the scope of already conferred power.

That is a commendably concise and accurate description of the legal position. Of major relevance, it is the legal opinion of the Government of the United Kingdom, as submitted to the International Court of Justice in the Kosovo case. The International Court of Justice endorsed this view, so it is both established law and the opinion of the British Government that the Scottish Government has the right to declare Independence without the agreement or permission of London and completely irrespective of the London Supreme Court.

I have continually explained on this site that the legality of a Declaration of Independence is in no sense determined by the law of the metropolitan state, but is purely a matter of recognition by other countries and thus acceptance into the United Nations. The UK Government set this out plainly in response to a question from a judge in the Kosovo case:

2. As the United Kingdom stated in oral argument, international law contains no
prohibition against declarations of independence as such. 1 Whether a declaration of
independence leads to the creation of a new State by separation or secession depends
not on the fact of the declaration but on subsequent developments, notably recognition
by other States. As a general matter, an act not prohibited by international law needs
no authorization. This position holds with respect to States. It holds also with respect
to acts of individuals or groups, for international law prohibits conduct of non-State
entities only exceptionally and where expressly indicated.

As I have stressed, the SNP should now be making a massive effort to prepare other countries, especially in the EU and in the developing world, to recognise Scotland when the moment comes. There is no task more important. There is a worrying lack of activity in this area. It may currently not be possible to spend government money on sending out envoys for this task, but if personal envoys were endorsed by the First Minister they would get access and could easily be crowd funded by the Independence Movement. I am one of a number of former senior British diplomats who would happily undertake this work without pay. We should be lobbying not just the EU but every country in Africa, Asia and South America.

My preferred route to Independence is this. The Scottish Parliament should immediately legislate for a new Independence referendum. The London Government will attempt to block it. The Scottish Parliament should then convene a National Assembly of all nationally elected Scottish representatives – MSPs, MPs and MEPs. That National Assembly should declare Independence, appeal to other countries for recognition, reach agreements with the rump UK and organise a confirmatory plebiscite. That is legal, democratic and consistent with normal international practice.

There will never be a better time than now for Scotland to become an Independent, normal, nation once again. It is no time for faint hearts or haverers; we must seize the moment.

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The Supreme Court Judgement and Scotland’s Colonial Status

London’s Supreme Court, sitting in judgement on its Scottish colony, has ruled that parts of the Scottish Government’s UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill exceed the powers of the Scottish Parliament.

The judgement is absolutely specific that the Scottish Bill breaches both the Scotland Act, the original devolution settlement, and the Tory/DUP government’s recent European Union (Withdrawal) Act, which rolled back devolution, grabbed powers from the Scottish Parliament over previously devolved areas and wrenched them back to Westminster. The Tory/DUP European Union (Withdrawal) Act Schedule 4 specified that it overruled the Scotland Act devolution settlement.

If you carefully read the judgement, especially paras 47 to 65, the Supreme Court has gone still further than ever before in saying that neither the Scotland Act nor the Sewell Convention in any way limits the power of the UK Parliament to legislate for Scotland, even in devolved areas, without any need for consent from Scottish ministers or parliament. They even go so far as to specifically state that London ministers have an untrammelled power under the Scotland Act, without needing consent from Scotland or specific further endorsement from the Westminster parliament, to impose secondary legislation on Scotland.

It is a long judgement but its heart is at para 53:

That conclusion is not altered by the other arguments advanced by the Lord Advocate. In relation to the first argument (para 47 above), a provision which made the effect of laws made by the UK Parliament for Scotland conditional on the consent of the Scottish Ministers, unless it disapplied or repealed the provision in question, would for that very reason be inconsistent with the continued recognition of its unqualified sovereignty, and therefore tantamount to an amendment of section 28(7) of the Scotland Act. In relation to the second argument (para 48 above), the question before the court is whether, if the Bill were to receive Royal Assent, section 17 would be law. If not, there would be no question of its having to be disapplied or repealed by the UK Parliament: it would be of no legal effect whatsoever (“not law”, in terms of section 29(1) of the Scotland Act). It is therefore no answer to an argument that section 17 of the Bill would be outside legislative competence, to say that it could be disapplied or repealed. In relation to the third argument (para 49 above), this submission resembles the Lord Advocate’s first argument, and for similar reasons we are unable to accept it. A provision which imposes a condition on the legal effect of laws made by the UK Parliament, in so far as they apply to Scotland, is in conflict with the continuation of its sovereign power to make laws for Scotland, and is therefore equivalent to the amendment of section 28(7) of the Scotland Act.

Having asserted that the London Parliament and Government can do anything to Scotland it wishes under its “sovereign power to make laws for Scotland”, the judgement logically asserts that the power grab contained in the EU (Withdrawal) Act was perfectly legal. As the Supreme Court said in its published explainer for the media:

What is the effect of the UK Withdrawal Act on the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament in relation to the Scottish Bill? The UK Withdrawal Act is not a reserved matter but it is protected against modification under Schedule 4 [99]. Several provisions of the Scottish Bill in whole or in part amount to modifications of the UK Withdrawal Act. These are: section 2(2) [101]; section 5 [102]; section 7(2)(b) and 7(3) [103-104]; section 8(2) [105]; section 9A [106]; section 9B [107]; section 10(2), 10(3)(a) and 10(4)(a) [108-110]; section 11 [111-113]; section 13B, section 14, section 14A, section 15, section 16, section 19(1) and section 22 (to the extent that these provisions relate to section 11) [114-118, 120-121]; section 26A(6) [122]; and section 33 and Schedule 1 paragraphs 11(a) and 16 [123-124].

The judgement is as expected and reaffirms Scotland’s colonial status and the London view that the Scotland Act did not recognise any inherent Scottish rights, but rather graciously handed down from above some powers that London may change at a whim, exactly as though Scotland were an English County Council.

Given all this, the part of the judgement which states that it was not in itself outside the competence of the Scottish Parliament to pass a bill which relates solely to the domestic effects of EU withdrawal, is a very small victory indeed – and utterly irrelevant in the wider scheme of things.

Anybody in the SNP today touting this judgement as a victory, has either not read it, or is worryingly comfortable with vassal status inside the UK Establishment.

Devolution is not just a sop, it is a trap. It is a device by which the SNP has its energies sapped dry in a Herculean effort to maintain Scottish services and public welfare while being perpetually undercut by Tory austerity. The Scottish government are trying to defend the Scottish people with both hands tied behind their backs, while a unified Tory media attacks them relentlessly for every public service failure in Scotland, as though the Tories were not the cause.

Not only was the Vow of increased powers for the Scottish Parliament, which turned the tide of the 2014 referendum on Independence, an abject lie; what the Supreme Court has affirmed is that the English Tories and Northern Irish unionists can strip powers from the Scottish Parliament at will.

What the Supreme Court have done today is to provide crystal clarity that Scotland has but two choices; complete subservience to Tory England or Independence. All else is fiction.

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Not Content with Constant Anti-Scottish Output, the BBC is Extending its Reach to Anti-Scottish Censorship.

The BBC’s success in taking down Wings Over Scotland’s YouTube channel – and Youtube’s complacent compliance with the BBC instruction – has a very dodgy foundation in law. Excerpts of copyright material may be published for purposes of “criticism, review or quotation” provided the source is acknowledged. As Wings would only use BBC material for review and criticism – they are hardly repeating it as great news reporting – the BBC’s copyright infringement claim is at best very dubious.

More to the point, this despicable infringement on freedom of speech is appalling behaviour for a state broadcaster. Removal of criticism is the BBC’s only purpose here. The BBC is not protecting a state asset – the old news clips in question have zero commercial value; Wings was not republishing episodes of Dr Who.

Not content with constant anti-Scottish output, the BBC is extending its reach to anti-Scottish censorship.

If you have not yet seen it, I do urge you to watch this eye-opening, indeed breathtaking, documentary on the BBC’s fake news output in the Scottish referendum campaign. The strange colour toning in the BBC excerpts were in fact an additional defence against a copyright claim. Watch it now in case the BBC and YouTube take this one down too.

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Scotland Must Defend Carla Ponsati; Sturgeon Cannot Play Pontius Pilate

It is sickening that Spanish courts continue to jail, and remove from political life, Catalan politicians who are the victors in democratic elections. That the European political class and media is almost entirely complicit and supportive in this truly vicious repression of the Catalan people, has shocked many of us to our core, and made us realise how thin is the veneer of democracy and how fragile are the rights we believed we held.

If the UK were any kind of a democracy, opposition parties would have held firm against the rush to conflict with Russia, until serious and thorough investigation of the Skripal case had yielded real results. At the very least, you would expect to see a select committee of the House of Commons call the head of Porton Down to give evidence and quiz him about the level of certainty they have of the identity and the Russian manufacture of the substance which poisoned the Skripals.

Instead, we have seen all the establishment parties fall over themselves to appear as belligerent and faux-Churchillian as May and her pipsqueaks, in order to placate the tabloids. This is ludicrous. You cannot out-jingo the Tories, and the rush to increase international tension benefits nobody except the armaments and security industries.

I am obliged to say I was disgusted by Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP leadership and their premature condemnations of Russia. By coincidence I spent much of last week at pro-Indy events and I have to say I found this disgust almost universal.

The odd voice was prepared to offer the usual Nicola excuse of “She is trying not to alienate the Unionists”. But what is the point of not alienating the Unionists by, to all intents and purposes, becoming a Britnat yourself? The continued failure – for years now – of the SNP to argue to the public the case for Independence, the attempt to dodge Indyref2, all of it leaves me to feel that the SNP leadership have got their feet under the table within the UK, as a form of controlled opposition.

The SNP leadership are far happier talking about which powers devolve to Holyrood from Brussels, and which stay at Westminster, than they are talking about Independence. I don’t give a damn about the precise contours of the devolution settlement; I want my country to be free of Westminster entirely, and soon.

We are not yet subject to the extreme state repression afflicting our counterparts in Catalonia, but you can be certain the Tories have noted the template, and that other Western political leaders will support them if they start putting people like me in the pokey for thirty years for sedition. Sadly it has become abundantly clear that there is no danger of the highly paid SNP elected representatives, their SPADs, and party bureaucrats, ever putting themselves in that position.

They would be with those handing down the sentences, as their attitude to Carla Ponsati shows.

Just as MEPs lined up one after another in the European Parliament to defend Francoist thugs batoning grandmothers trying to vote as the “rule of law”, and use the same excuse for lengthy sentences for political prisoners, so there was an echo of this distancing in Nicola Sturgeon’s response to the extradition of Catalan campaigner Carla Ponsati through the Scottish courts, potentially to spend the rest of her life in a Spanish jail just for peacefully campaigning for freedom for her country.

Nicola referred to “the fact our justice system is legally obliged to follow due process in the determination of extradition requests”. She too is hiding behind “the rule of law” and thus turning a blind eye to the Francoist attack on fundamental rights.

Very few voters of the SNP put Nicola Sturgeon into parliament in order to warm her toes at the Robert Adam fireplaces at Bute House, while Catalan leaders are dragged from Scotland to a terrible repression. The SNP leadership have become far too adept at speaking with British Establishment voices and thinking with British Establishment minds.

At some stage they have to accept that achieving Scottish Independence is in itself a revolutionary act, and that it will never be achieved without real constitutional conflict with the UK, the sort of political conflict which has attended the birth of every independent state. If you are afraid to do something “unconstitutional” under the present repressive system, you have no right to pretend to be a part of the Independence movement.

For Sturgeon to hide behind the Edinburgh High Tory Scottish legal establishment and wash her hands, Pontius Pilate like, over the extradition of Carla Ponsati is simply unacceptable.

Saving this brave woman is as noble a cause to launch a constitutional crisis as one might wish for. The Holyrood parliament must pass a Bill forbidding the extradition of Ponsati and the Scottish government must order Police Scotland to enforce it. We need finally to show we are serious about challenging the UK. If Sturgeon declines, then the Scottish people must physically defend Ponsati. And the Independence movement must fundamentally reconsider its leadership and strategy.

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The Course of Scottish Politics

The SNP triumphed in 2015 by outflanking Labour to the left. The Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn is now coming back by outflanking the SNP to the left. This was not hard as the SNP tends to talk left but not act it. Kezia Dugdale has resigned because she is unhappy with tacking to the left; indeed as a third rate machine politician she has never given any indication of philosophical conviction at all.

A large number of those voters returning to support Scottish Labour from the SNP have not abandoned their support for Independence, and having a significant Indy supporting section of its voter base is something which ultimately Labour will have to come to terms with. The shift of the left to support the SNP had left Scottish Labour as this strange rump of beached Blairites and Brownites, to the extent that even the (tiny number of) ordinary members were not supporters of Corbyn. That too will change. I have no doubt that Corbyn’s opposition to Independence was tactical and caused by the need to placate this Scottish Labour establishment. I can foresee Labour moving to become much more Independence friendly over the next few years – its Orangemen have already largely shifted to the Tories.

A number of people have suggested to me that I am myself moving towards joining Labour. The answer to which is, not until the last member of the GMB is led by the ears down Sauchiehall St with a Trident missile shoved up their arse. That is not as facetious as it sounds. For me the GMB characterises everything that is wrong with the entire founding principles of the Labour Party. If somebody announced a new WMD had been developed which only kills babies less than 10 months old, the GMB would say that was great, providing their members could build it. Before anybody argues, remember their members already build WMD which would inevitably incinerate millions of babies.

There is much concentration on Labour’s appalling Blairite MPs, and I could certainly never vote for a large majority of their people at Westminster. Until Corbyn manages a real purge there is no way I would even think of voting Labour. But people forget it has historically been the trades unions who have defeated all previous attempts to use the Labour Party to advance a left wing agenda, and who even now enforce support of Trident and of nuclear power. Middle class intellectuals tend to have a misty-eyed view of dignified, auto-didactic workers. I have seen too much of the world (and of the racist, xenophobic and significantly working class English Brexit voters) to harbour such fantasy, and too much contempt for political correctness to pretend that I do. It is extraordinary how many people feel the unions should be above criticism because they represent the working class. Increased union workplace power is now essential to help rebalance the economy; but they should not be fetishized.

That is more space about Labour than it currently deserves.

Meantime it is foolish to deny there is something of a crisis of confidence in the Independence movement.

Every three months or so, for almost the past three years, I have published that I am yet to hear one single post-referendum statement or speech by a senior SNP figure explaining the advantages of Independence. Well, I still haven’t. Having conclusively proven in a dismal Westminster campaign that not mentioning the benefits of Independence is a seat loser, the SNP is resolutely continuing not to mention the benefits of Independence.

There has however been a change. Before the Westminster election, the SNP would not talk about Independence but would talk about the tactics of achieving Independence, principally referendum timing. Now they have a new tactic of never mentioning Independence at all. Instead they concentrate exclusively on good governance within the Union.

Personally I have no interest at all in pretending that the glorified regional council at the bottom of Holyrood Road is a national parliament, when it is not even consulted on whether the nation goes to war, cannot stop forced deportations of valued residents from local communities, and cannot prevent extradition of citizens to face English courts (I am myself up in the English High Court on a libel charge soon). We do not really have a Scottish parliament or a Scottish government. We have a glorified council.

But there are many in the SNP who appear pretty well satisfied with the status quo, given a few extra powers handed down when we leave the EU. Brexit is being forced upon Scotland demonstrably against the will of the nation. It is an economically suicidal policy and yet the SNP appears meekly to be now discussing its implementation, rather than reaching for the national sovereignty that would prevent it.

That we are forced out of the EU against our will is the ultimate proof that the near useless institution in Holyrood is not a Parliament.

There are too many people within the SNP who are content with Scotland’s pretend national status and very real humiliating colonial status. There are too many people in the SNP who earn a fat living from being politicians within the UK system they are only pretending to oppose. The SNP is starting to look like the classical elite “native” ruling class the British ruled through in nearly all their colonies. The SNP, far too many of them, have cushy well-paid jobs within the devolution settlement and are not personally inclined to take risks.

The SNP begins to look like a controlled opposition. The unionist establishment is delighted with the SNP.

The SNP soaked up all the energy of the Yes movement, and diverted it into a cul de sac away from any agitation for Independence. Energies have been dissipated on elections within – and not challenging – the UK governance system and on a series of pointless consultation exercises. Opposition to Brexit has been corralled and dissipated. The SNP has effectively done the British Establishment’s job for it.

I so not exclude Nicola Sturgeon from this criticism. Indeed it is chiefly a criticism of Nicola Sturgeon.

In the course of the last referendum campaign the YES camp gained an astonishing 17%. The reason was that the actual arguments for Independence were heard. That has not happened since – those in a position to have the argument heard, have chosen in their own interest not to make it. Yet still I have no doubt that, if we only get the chance, the next campaign will see us sprint home in triumph. What the SNP are in danger of becoming is the gatekeepers who deny us that chance.

The SNP needs to recover its nerve, and needs to demonstrate it exists to achieve Independence, not to make personal careers. Another referendum needs to be called by this Holyrood parliament; it would be a brave man or woman who predicts the De Hondt system will deliver a pro-Independence majority in the next one. I urge everybody to stay with the SNP, as I see no practical alternative way forward. But we need to make plain to the leadership that we are starting to become not just disappointed by them, but angry with them.

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Americans, Irish, Uzbeks, Ukrainians, Pakistanis – They All Have More Balls Than We Scots

The fascist violence in Charlottesville was in defence of prominent public statues to those who fought to uphold slavery. History should not be destroyed, and there is a place for such statues in appropriate explained context in museums. But public celebration of advocates of slavery ought to end. People always throw off the monuments of their oppressors, and so they should. The statues should be removed from their prestigious positions.

Hardly anybody remembers now that O’Connell Street in Dublin was Sackville Street. You will scour Ireland with little success for surviving statues of British Imperial rulers and commanders – there were once hundreds. I found that Burnes Road in Karachi is no more. Uzbekistan and Ukraine are no longer dotted with great statues of Lenin.

Yet I live here in a city which still has a Cumberland Street, named after a disgusting war criminal who perpetrated long term and systematic atrocities on this very people whose capital city is desecrated by his name. Cumberland was a worse racist and an infinitely greater war criminal than Robert E Lee. Yet I hear not a whisper to echo the brave roar of Charlottesville. The imposed regime which crushed Scotland, outlawed its major language and much of its culture and tried to expunge even the memory of its history and native culture, is celebrated in the heart of the nation. Hanover Street, George Street, Rose Street, Princes Street. These vicious, arrogant, Scot-hating people really did crush Scotland’s spirit, to the extent we still cringe before them now they are long dead.

It staggers me that, after we have decades of an element of home rule by alleged Scottish Nationalists and an alleged Labour Party, when even the pathetic colonial status of the devolution settlement gives the power to rename a few streets, Labour and the SNP, as the minimum gesture of self-awareness and a tiny, tiny glimmer of self-respect, have not renamed Cumberland Street after Keir Hardie.

Yes, we have always suffered from a parcel of rogues in a nation. Yet we remain a parcel of cowards as a nation. The brave left wing demonstrators of Charlottesville, supporting the removal of Robert E Lee against the violence of the fascists, put us to deep shame.

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Five Days to Go to the Best Party in Scotland!

There are five days to go to the best party in Scotland. Not the Edinburgh Festival, with its Fringe of 2,000 talentless sweary comedians playing to stag and hen parties who cover the street in vomit, and its stalls selling £5.50 small slices of pizza.

No, there is a world of nice people, talented musicians, and great beers and ciders, passingly quaffable wines, fine whisky and fashionable artisan gins and tonics all served by me. It’s called Doune the Rabbit Hole and it starts on Friday.

Both weekend camping and day tickets are still available, and I now have a discount link I can give readers of this blog.

I am going to be foolishly honest here. After 7 years in which the festival has grown by 15 to 30% each year, this is the first year when we have a serious decline in sales. This genuinely puzzles us, and I think it is partly because last year the terrible weather (freakishly cold and wet even by Scottish summer standards) gave many people a bad experience. Thankfully this year’s forecast looks great. And as we are the only music festival I am aware of in Scotland which is not currently in receipt of any public funding at all (though I keep trying) we really do need to sell some more tickets.

There, that was refreshingly honest, wasn’t it?

You don’t have to take my word it is great fun, there is plenty of evidence. It is particularly designed to be family friendly without being in the least uptight.

Do join us. I believe if the money is an issue, we may still have room for more volunteers. At this stage get in touch with me direct via the contact button top right of the blog.

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