There is no Establishment pathway to the final destruction of the Imperial British state. It will be momentous; the daft pomposity of the Jubilee celebrations reminds us of how powerful the United Kingdom once was. Only real power can prevent such forms from looking ludicrous. The show continues with the power behind it gone.
The British decline from being the greatest world power to the collapse of the metropolitan state has taken only a century. It held world pre-eminence for less than two centuries, approximately Plassey to Hiroshima. This ephemeral parade of military conquest, rape, looting and systematic economic exploitation is drawing to the most inglorious of closes. Empires do that.
Who remembers the details of the final Roman Emperors, the sackings of Rome, the alliances, the purple seized by outsiders? Very few. We recall Rome’s heyday; Pompey, Caesar, Antony, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Nero, Claudius. Of later Emperors, Constantine and Hadrian have name recognition. But the last three Emperors in Rome were Glycerius, Julius Nepos and Romulus Augustus. Even I had to look them up (and that isn’t the Romulus nor the Augustus that you have heard of – he appropriated the names).
Similarly I expect that a millennium hence not much will be heard of Boris Johnson; Walpole, Pitt, Peel, Gladstone, Disraeli, Lloyd George and Churchill will be names known to history students. Johnson will be just an opportunity for historians to pen amusing footnotes.
Historians will write sagely, scathingly or amusingly of the unbelievable mess at the very end of the UK. The extraordinary paralysis of government caused by Brexit, the brazen corruption on an enormous scale in PPE contracts, these will be briefly referenced. Johnson will get fleeting mentions as the epitome of the collapse of standards in public life at the UK’s decline; an inveterate liar. There will be scoffing at Partygate and the uncertain number of his children.
But one thing will puzzle historians. Why did the UK have enough strength to hold together for some time once the fissiparous forces had become overwhelming?
Given a Brexit which Scotland strongly opposed, a whole succession of very right wing Tory governments which Scotland also strongly opposed, and the utter mess of the May and Johnson governments which were hated in Scotland, how did a wasted decade (at least) pass after 2014 without Scotland moving to Independence. What held the union together?
The answer, of course, will be that Nicola Sturgeon held the union together. In the year 3000, first year history students at Dundee University will be sitting down to an essay question that reads “Nicola Sturgeon – Coward or Traitor? Discuss”.
The argument I have frequently seen used by those nowadays in the SNP for not moving towards Independence is that public opinion is not yet strongly enough in favour. What I do not understand is how they think public opinion will shift in favour without a campaign, when corporate and state media are so overwhelmingly biased against Independence.
The SNP justifies its period of taking huge personal emoluments from the British state with the argument that by demonstrating a capacity for good government they will encourage people towards Independence. Well, after eight years of power Nicola Sturgeon has moved Independence support from 45% to … 45%.
So if the argument is true that good SNP government will gain support for Independence, it follows that as support has not increased, the SNP is not providing good government. I think that is basically the case.
The problem is that, from an Independence movement bubbling with enormous talent, the paranoid Sturgeon picks people solely based on two criteria. The first is absolute subservience to her. The second is that they are entirely mediocre and could never be a threat. Those genuinely talented are ruthlessly disposed of – Michelle Thomson, Joanna Cherry and of course Alex Salmond come to mind immediately, there are others.
That John Swinney, Keith Brown, Shirley-Anne Somerville and Humza Yousaf hold national office in a country as full of talent as Scotland, is something I struggle to believe. Not one of those could ever aspire to attain mediocrity. They are dunces.
The penny first dropped with me that SNP internal elections are fixed when it was announced that Keith Brown had beaten Tommy Sheppard to be Deputy Leader. The worst example was the alleged victory of Angus Robertson over Marco Biaggi to be MSP candidate for Edinburgh Central. I was a member of the constituency association and literally knew not one single person who was voting for Robertson. Opinion in the SNP club on a Friday night was equally unanimous.
As I discovered when I came second in the SNP Presidency election, there is zero transparency to candidates in the SNP voting process. You are told the result, and that is it (I should make plain I am not suspicious about the victor in my own case).
It is a remarkable fact that the addition of some very weak Green ministers has nevertheless raised the level of the Scottish government. I was noticing that we see them on television much more than we see SNP ministers. Then the penny dropped that the Green ministers can make media appearances without Nicola’s permission, whereas SNP ministers cannot.
Once you realise that, you quickly see just how much Sturgeon monopolises the media and how very little publicity she allows to her ministers. She truly is the most astonishing narcissist. She is never off the media while the minsters, bar the Greens, are virtually invisible.
It cannot be denied that Sturgeon is very good at winning elections. If the goal is sustaining the SNP in power as colonial governors, she most definitely achieves it. If the goal is Independence, she has achieved nothing. In his identical period in office, Alex Salmond moved support for Independence from 28% to 45%. On that measure, Sturgeon has achieved absolutely nothing.
I have enormous respect for Alex Salmond. I did not follow the Amber Heard/Johnny Depp trial at all – they both seem weird and unpleasant. But what it is impossible to miss is the massive gulf between what ordinary people say on social media they believe, having watched the actual broadcast of the trial, and what the “liberal” media is loudly telling them that they ought to believe.
The difference could not be more stark and it amounts to this. The overwhelming majority of ordinary people reject the notion that you should decide the truth of events based on the gender of those involved. The jury rejected that too. The media persist in telling them they must base who to believe on gender.
How I wish the trial of Alex Salmond had also been televised. People would have seen, as the Salmond jury saw, that accusers were blatantly lying and conspiring. But the mass of people did not see that, and exactly as in the Heard/Depp trial, the media overwhelmingly portrayed the jury as wrong and the verdict as perverse and unethical.
Imagine if all you know of the Heard/Depp trial had been what it said in the Guardian and on the BBC? Public opinion would be overwhelmingly different from what it is. But the public are not fools, and when a trial is truly public and they can see it, they understand.
The Salmond trial was not truly public. What you were permitted to know was strictly controlled. It has only reached people through an entirely and deliberately warped media filter. If you had seen and heard it, your knowledge of the truth would be entirely different. The jury saw and heard it. They gave a true and honest verdict. How I wish the Salmond trial had been televised – that is worth saying again.
The same is of course true of the Assange trials.
As things stand, despite the jury and entirely unfairly, it is the reputation of Alex Salmond which is destroyed and not those of his lying accusers. His Alba Party, of which I am a member, barely registers at the polls. Yet Alex Salmond is, despite his age, starting again from scratch, speaking to audiences of 100 in draughty local halls around Scotland, plugging the case for Independence, as he was doing 50 years ago.
The man has the heart of a lion. The words of Kipling (a much maligned and misrepresented poet) come to mind:
“If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss”
Salmond is a hero, pure and simple. The sheer evil of what Sturgeon tried to do to him – and in many ways succeeded – is far beyond my comprehension.
I do not believe Sturgeon will hold an Independence referendum in 2023 as promised. I think she will ask Boris Johnson for a Section 30 agreement to hold one, knowing he will refuse. She will then declare herself again against “illegal” and “wildcat” referenda and will urge everybody to vote SNP in the 2024 Westminster elections, to give her yet another “mandate” she will not use and her mates another long ride on the gravy train.
You may be surprised to hear that in one sense I am quite relaxed about this. I am not a believer in referenda, or other forms of direct democracy.
About a month ago I was listening to an interview on Radio 4 with a Brexit voter who was being expelled from Spain. He had lived there for some years, and owned his home there, but he had failed whatever test it was for residency the Spanish government had implemented post Brexit.
The kicker of course was that the man and his wife (who was audibly sobbing) had voted for Brexit. He had no idea, he told the BBC, that it might lead to his expulsion from Spain. The first instinct was to laugh at him, and that was rather the tone of the piece.
But that is, of course, the problem with referenda. They ask simplified questions of people many of whom are incapable of understanding, or not bothered to understand, the ramifications. They also provide a great amplifier for popular prejudice, as witness a series of anti-Muslim decisions in Switzerland.
Indeed (and it always annoys people when I say this), while there is a left wing case for Brexit, many Brexit voters were motivated by simple anti-immigrant feeling. Indeed, a period living in Ramsgate destroyed in me any illusions about the nobility of “the people”.
Even more than I dislike referenda do I dislike Citizens Assemblies, where ordinary people are led by the nose by a battery of “experts” and carefully selected reading material, towards the Establishment’s predetermined objective.
In any event, the conditions for a fair referendum simply do not exist in Scotland – as they did not exist in 2014. The public have been subjected to a lifetime of unionist education and media propaganda, and that would persist throughout the election campaign. In 2014 the BBC achieved the not inconsiderable feat of being even more biased than the corporate media.
Alan Knight’s wonderful documentary on BBC bias in the 2014 campaign, London Calling, was one of the most enjoyable things I have worked on.
Unlike the joyful outburst of popular enthusiasm that characterised the 2014 campaign, Sturgeon is determined to control the Yes movement in the event her party forces her to hold the referendum. To that end she has introduced a committee of compliant Sturgeonistas – people almost entirely invisible in the 2014 campaign – who apparently are now officially the Yes Movement, and have unveiled a pledge of political correctness we all have to sign to take part, all about things entirely unrelated to Independence.
The problem is that Sturgeon’s vision of an Independent Scotland looks an awful lot like the UK. First and foremost it is to be entirely neoliberal and centre right in politics, as witness the reaffirmation of the SNP Growth Commission as the blueprint. That document could have been produced by Fred Goodwin’s Royal Bank of Scotland in 2006. Furthermore Scotland is to be entirely Atlanticist, enthusiastically into NATO and arms sales, and joined at the hip with Westminster in defence policy, while still subservient to a London based monarch and using London currency.
I am not at all sure I see the point of Independence in Nicola’s vision. Nor do I know any Scot genuinely enthusiastic about Independence who sees the future of Scotland in that way. It is a vision of Independence for people who do not actually believe in Independence. It is not a vision that will ever win a referendum campaign.
Let us forget referenda. In constitutional affairs I am in some respects an adherent of the Irish conservative philosopher Edmund Burke. I believe that the best democracy consists of the people voting to choose wise and responsible people to make law, and not in the people trying to make law direct themselves.
Now I admit that Burke’s theory has taken a huge hammering in recent years, as western democracy has declined into sophisticated kleptocracy and elected representatives have become deeply unimpressive charlatans and puppets of the super rich. But I still think leaders should lead.
The conundrum was perhaps solved for me last year by my friend Joseph who remarked “you may think you are a Burkean conservative, Craig, but actually you are a revolutionary vanguardist”. Which I discover is, in important respects, surprisingly much the same thing.
Either way, it boils down to this. Leaders lead. Scotland needs to forget about referenda. It has elected a majority of pro-Independence representatives. They should declare Independence. This could be done by the Scottish Parliament, but I would much prefer a National Assembly to be called combining both MPs and MSPs. The National Assembly should declare Independence and apply to the United Nations for recognition.
While that is pending, and at least six months after the declaration, a confirmatory plebiscite can be held under conditions which Scotland controls.
The SNP can do this, or it can continue to be a super gravy train for otherwise entirely unemployable politicians.
The moment is now. Boris Johnson is uniquely bereft of moral authority. The UK will never be weaker. Never will the UK have a leader who will command so little international and domestic respect and support, should he seek to reassert London control by violence. However should he succeed by violence, nothing could better expedite our eventual success.
It really is time for SNP politicians to stand up. Do you actually want Independence, or are you just stuffing your pockets on the backs of those who do?
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