Scottish Independence and Political Logic 152

Logic often appears in short supply in politics. This is because great decisions of state are not taken on the merits of the ostensible subject matter, but according to what best advances the career interest of the politicians with the power to decide.

Scotland has left the European Union against the will of a large majority of its voters, expressed in a referendum. The ridiculously “hard” Brexit has caused real economic damage to virtually everybody in Scotland.

Yet Brexit was not sufficient to motivate the SNP leadership to make any genuine move for Independence. Because any genuine move for Independence brings real risk to the political careers of the SNP leadership.

By contrast to Brexit, which affects everybody, gender reassignment affects only a very, very small proportion of the Scottish population. Unlike the EU, which remains very popular in Scotland, the measure to reform gender reassignment lately passed by the Scottish parliament is distinctly unpopular.

One sure sign of how unpopular gender self-ID is, is that Keir Starmer is rowing away from it at the speed of light. Starmer believes in nothing but power and wealth for himself. Having been told self-ID is not popular, Starmer has absolutely no care about throwing Anas Sarwar and Scottish Labour under a bus, and opposing a Scottish law that Scottish Labour voted for in Holyrood.

Starmer is simply following Starmer’s career interest.

My personal view, for what it is worth, is that the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill passed by the Scottish parliament is still better than the status quo ante, though I would have preferred some of the safeguarding amendments to have been passed.

But I realise I am not on the popular side of the argument.

So how can it be possible that, having failed to move for Independence over EU membership, which is popular and affects everybody, the SNP may move for Independence over self-ID, which is unpopular and affects a tiny number of people?

The answer is astonishing and, if you are not a very close follower of Scottish politics, I understand it may be difficult to believe.

The first and crucial point is that Nicola Sturgeon has always been much more interested in identity politics than in Scottish Independence.

I think that is generally accepted now. I claim the Cassandra Prize for reading the entrails way back in March 2015.

I had a counterbalancing doubt at the back of my mind about this enthusiasm for – as Nicola Sturgeon put it – “Improving” the UK. I don’t want to improve the Union, I want to end it. Power has a fatal attraction to politicians, and I think I detected that exercising power in the United Kingdom is today gleaming brighter in the dreams of some professional SNP politicians than is independence for Scotland.

The other thing I did not like was the machine politics and management of it all. The entire first day there was not a motion that was passed other than by acclaim, and there was not a single speech against anything, though there were a couple of attempts at referral back. The only item permitted on to the conference agenda, in closed session on day 2, that was in the least likely to cause controversy was the adoption of all women shortlists – and the only reason that was on the agenda was that the leader made it abundantly plain she wanted it. I incline to the view that as a short term measure it is justified, but I abstained because I did not like what I saw of the way it was managed.

It was the only debate the leader sat through, and it was very plain she was watching carefully how people were voting. There was a definite claque of paid party apparatchiks and organised feminists occupying front centre of the hall. There was a strong suspicion, voiced by Christine Graham, that deliberately weak and left field speakers had been chosen against women shortlists. And for the vote, party functionaries including Angus Robertson and Ian McCann stood at the side of the hall very ostensibly noting who voted which way and making sure that the payroll vote performed. I was right next to where Angus Robertson stood as he did this. He moved into position just before the vote, made it very obvious indeed what he was doing, and left immediately after. I found myself regarding the prospect of a whole raft of new MPs, their research assistants and secretaries providing 200 more payroll votes, as depressing.

All women shortlists of course became permanent, and other manifestations of identity politics followed. We have the SNP National Executive dominated by representatives of identity groups.

We also have the “gender balanced” cabinet, which is the only explanation for the idiot Shirley-Anne Somerville being a minister.

Actually I take that back, there is no possible explanation of Shirley-Anne Somerville being a minister. She would fail the interview for Deputy Manager of a branch of Superdry.

We have the appointment of a Lord Advocate on the basis that being the first female in this key role outweighs being a diehard unionist.

This deserves greater consideration in this discussion of politics and logicality.

It is a fascinating fact that Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain was prepared to certify the Gender Recognition Reform Bill as not in conflict with UK legislation and thus the Scotland Act, when it obviously is in conflict.

Yet Bain refused to certify a referendum bill.

The Lord Advocate was appointed by Sturgeon and sits in her cabinet. What is plain is that what is and what is not certified by Bain is, by happy coincidence, in line with Sturgeon’s political priorities.

Bain helped Sturgeon avoid the referendum she has been “promising” for seven years, and enabled the GRR legislation which is so very close to Sturgeon’s heart.

Is it not lucky that Bain’s entirely independent and sincere legal opinion always falls just as Nicola Sturgeon would wish?

Bain is also key to Sturgeon’s next gender identity moves which, together with GRR, Sturgeon believes will cement her legacy. They are the abolition of jury trials in sexual assault cases, openly pursued to increase the conviction rate rather than the just verdict rate, and the establishment of misogyny as a “hate crime”.

There have been many other defining “identity politics” features of Sturgeon’s rule, particularly “cutting edge” early age teaching on sexuality and gender in schools.

But the identity politics initiative which caused most publicity was of course the conspiracy of lies and liars, orchestrated from Nicola Sturgeon’s office, to harness the #MeToo movement to jail her heterosexual male predecessor, an inexorable proponent of Independence.

When that plot was foiled by an honest Edinburgh jury, the abolition of juries moved high up on Sturgeon’s agenda.

In using her position as First Minister to advance the identity politics agenda, the one thing causing stress to Sturgeon has been the existence of members of her own party who believed the party should rather be achieving Independence.

Sturgeon has famously kept party members following her for over eight years by continuing dangling the carrot of a referendum before them – a referendum she has never had the slightest intention of holding, and never will hold.

This extremely skilful feat of party management has been achieved by driving out of the SNP those members who were primarily interested in Independence. The tens of thousands who have left were the long serving backbone of the party.

For some reason I have never understood, there has been a peculiar alignment in Scottish Independence politics.

Those Independence supporters who support trans rights are strongly correlated with “gradualists”, those who are happy with devolution and see Independence as a distant aspiration.

Those Independence supporters who oppose self-ID on gender are strongly correlated with those who see Independence as an urgent need now. Hence the Alba Party.

By making support for trans rights, in the most uncompromising and ideological form, a flagship policy of the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon drove out almost all the hardline Independence supporters from the SNP.

The remaining membership who are driven by anything resembling a belief, are driven by identity politics. But as the SNP has become firmly established as the font of political power and paid position in Scotland, it has also attracted a new membership, often ex-Labour, who are interested in money and career.

I have never understood why there was this correlation between trans rights and gradualism. I was one of the very few individuals you could point to who both supported trans rights and supported urgent Independence now.

Until now.

Suddenly Nicola’s shock troops, the trans activists who have dominated the SNP and Green parties, see Independence as urgent, following Westminster’s veto of Gender Recognition Reform.

In two months, the SNP will hold a special conference designed by Sturgeon and Murrell to vote to kick down the road for a few more years Nicola’s promise to hold a plebiscitary election should Westminster not allow the Independence referendum.

But since that conference was called, Nicola’s gender identity troops, who were happy with the devolution system that they believed had delivered what they wanted, suddenly find Independence is needed after the Westminster veto.

That fundamentally changes the equation. By a delicious irony, those people Nicola weaponised to get rid of the supporters of Independence, are now the ones pushing her to move on Independence.

This is hilarious.

Sturgeon is attempting to stave them off by her old trusty method of taking court action against Westminster; which as always she will lose when it finally reaches the Supreme Court in London.

Sturgeon held off parliamentary action on Gender Recognition Reform for years, while she used it as a wedge issue inside the party.

Now the legislation has finally passed, I very much doubt the committed activists into whose hands she placed her political future, will be prepared to wait for another couple of years while a doomed court case plays out.

The end for Roman Emperors generally came when their Praetorian Guards turned against them.


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152 thoughts on “Scottish Independence and Political Logic

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  • Alexander Brown

    Go back to her speech at George Square the Saturday before the referendum. Now, was that a rallying call to independence? I don’t think so. The big man did a runner and handed her the keys to the kingdom. Why? It’s been downhill all the way since.

    • Stevie Boy

      All the evidence seems to point out that AS has effectively been neutered. No comments or statements on current events nationally or internationally; he appears to have nothing to say. RIP

      • Jimmeh

        AS was tainted by the accusations that were levelled at him. The jury said the accusations were false, but mud sticks. I suspect he feels he can’t pipe-up for Alba, for fear of tainting the party.

        You have to hand it to Sturgeon: she’s a pretty bold and slick political operator. She turned on her mentor, unseated him, took his throne, and then defanged the independence movement in the SNP.

        If only UK Labour had such a leader (oh, wait…)

  • Highlander

    Gender recognition!
    The long queues of junkies outside chemists every morning and afternoon.
    The thousands of our Scottish nation, our fathers and mothers dying of hypothermia because they cannot afford heating!
    The hundreds of scots, dying of hunger, because their pensions were stolen. I understand 90% of the social security budget is the result of pensions stolen by the financial self-regulation or deregulation “changes to legislation”!
    The National Insurance, a security of which I myself paid £600.00 plus a week, for years, refused anything when injured and couldn’t work.
    The GPS refusing patients access appointments to doctors surgeries. A friend of mine having severe headaches to the back of the head; I, as a medic, understand this is a life threatening symptom. It took a month to get the appointment! Told by GP to see a neurosurgeon for an urgent appointment. Every month given a letter from the NHS neuro department, there were no appointments. At no time did they say when he would get an appointment! Still he suffered!
    Regular letters arrived from the NHS, three in total.
    On Christmas Day 2022 his wife found him unable to speak. And ambulance was called, he had a stroke.
    Thankfully, the A&E were brilliant: a clot-buster injection was given, and he’s damaged but slowly making a near full recovery. The A&E doctors again asked for an appointment from the NHS, to see a neurosurgeon. He’s received yet another letter from the NHS, stating there are no appointments! He is again suffering severe headaches to the back of his head! How many other “patients” – mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers – are in the same position, dying because they cannot get treatment at the point of need?
    Gender recognition……. gender recognition!
    This is the reason abberations of human society should not be allowed the excesses to their preferences as rules to guide society.
    What next, Paedophilia by diktat?
    Children cannot contract, until 18 years old. Sexuality can be fluid, especially in men until early twenties. A medical fact my mother as a State Enrolled Nurse informed me.
    Any treatment to a child, such as hormone treatments, is an abuse to a child. As such, those treating that child is abusing that child.
    But the pharmaceutical company, is getting a ready market, to increase profits with the drugs that were used as a cancer treatment for men!
    Just as Baxters, an American drug company forecast 500% increase in profits year-on-year by placing bird flu into flu injections. The drug company readily paid the fines they received, paid compensation to those families whose relatives had died as a result of their criminal activities. But the huge profits made it viable.
    Time the parmucetical companies were held to account. As they today are price gouging the NHS.

    • Natasha

      Highlander, you write: “abberations of human society” whom you associate with “Paedophilia by diktat”. What next? Gas chambers for the freaks?

      National Socialism did the same. Only your abilities are so pathetic, you can’t even spell “abberations” attacking the smallest of tiny minorities – under 100 people a year out 5.5 million people since 2015 under Ireland’s gender recognition act.

      It’s time you are held to account for labelling minorities with such inflammatory corrupt propaganda.

      • ET

        Just to add that I, to my eternal shame, got the Irish population wrong. It’s a little over 5.1 million in 2022 census. Nonetheless, the point still stands. Other countries that have introduced gender recognition acts have not had a tsunami of sex offenders or predatory males applying for gender recognition certificates to change their gender. In fact the numbers are very small. Also, half of that small number are female seeking to be recognised as male.

        For that small number of people who are intimately involved in the process it is definitely an issue. For the rest of the population it’s going to have minimal impact on any aspect of their lives.

  • iain

    These gender recognition reforms are a virtual parody of the kind of nonsense that allows the Right to claim they are being oppressed by a hegemonic Left (and ignore a generation of unbroken centre-right rule). They are an extreme manifestation of the US oligarchy’s settled solution: empty culture wars to distract from (and perpetuate) a neoliberal order that has produced savage, peak economic inequality and perennial adventurism overseas. I wonder in fact whether she provoked all this trans brouhaha as much to impress Hillary as to repel indy supporters.

  • DGP

    This blog, along with Wings over Scotland, act as a magnet for dissent related to the current status quo, of a more or less powerless devolved Scottish assembly, unable to legislate on salient issues appropriate for an independent and internationally relevant nation. The domination of Scotland by an elite group centred around the wealthiest area is inevitable. That dominant segment is based in London and the London hinterland (home counties) where commercial, banking/financial and political power is concentrated. This connected croneyocracy or modern ‘court’ has no intention of giving up the power and status that Scottish independence would bring about. The UK is part of the US hegemony and while the UK is a small part of that, it is also a cornerstone of the authority wielded by the western alliance, a reduced UK would lose its position within the commonwealth – within the English speaking world (remnants of the empire, probably its security council role within UK); Nato would wobble if Faslane and Rosyth and Leuchars and Lossiemouth were to no longer be in the direct control of the NATO hierarchy.

    It must be palpably obvious to anyone that what passes for democracy is not much different to the ‘conserved’ politics of Russia and China, essentially no change except in appearances and minor adjustments of tone. Wobbles were induced by Jeremy Corbyn and Donald Trump but these systems have inbuilt self-righting mechanisms. The venom and urgency with which Jeremy Corbyn was neutralised indicates the true nature of our democracy. The persistence and egregiously murderous nature of the Israeli regime and its resistance to pressure indicates the nature of that regime and the implacable support it receives. It is privileged above most of the world by having an independent Nuclear force and no doubt has access to other unorthodox weaponry and military technology.

    I have no doubt that a truly independent Scotland would have a dramatic global effect and potentially disturb the many streams of money and influence and power that maintain this arrangement. That is why it wont happen – we are too tightly bound to the forces centred around London I once thought that Scottish independence would unleash a great movement within the UK for equivalent democracy in the regions throughout England – say a movement centred around Manchester/Liverpool or some group around the south west of England, but that is a very distant possibility. There are a few grumbles in Wales, but these are even less relevant than the Scottish Indy movement. There are a few chinks of possibility in the event of Irish re-unification but any attempt at that would probably trigger “Mark 2” troubles at much greater intensity than the Mark 1 troubles of the 70s/80s. I always feel compelled to ask why the US took such an interest in the Irish situation, and we were fed the line that it wasd ue to a sentimental attachments to an Irish heritage, such as Joe Biden’s origins; but I am much more inclined to think that there is a strong interest in maintaining equilibrium, with the UK as a component of the western/US hegemony. Rather than obsessing over the political midgets of Holyrood we should keep a close eye on Ireland and the developments around Sinn Fein rather than the incessant controversy over big endian- and small endian-ism of the Scottish “government”, or if you wish – Lilliput.

    • Goose

      I’d agree with that analysis.

      Former NATO general secretary, Lord George Robertson, was mocked, and accused of wild hyperbole, for claiming in a speech in April 2014, that a ‘Yes’ vote would have cataclysmic geopolitical consequences, a speech he gave, where else, but the in US, to the Brookings institution. He explained ,”the loudest cheers for the break-up of Britain would be from our adversaries and from our enemies. For the second military power in the West to shatter this year would be cataclysmic in geo-political terms…. Nobody should underestimate the effect all of that would have on existing global balances and the forces of darkness would simply love it.”

      We don’t fully understand how interwoven int. relationships are, because the political elites in our(US/UK) – one-party states masquerading as two-party states – have deliberately sought to obfuscate and keep populations in the dark, fearing political debate and public backlash to this dilution of sovereignty plus loss of meaningful choice in democratic elections. The elite justify keeping populations in the dark on the basis of their correct (imho) assumption populations wouldn’t understand how these complex, longstanding relationships work and the real advantages inherent to pooled power incl. military/intel expertise eg. FVEYs. To the security establishment sacrificing purer forms of democracy in order to maintain prosperity and security, is worth the trade off; their logic being that there is no higher calling for a ruling elite than to ensure those two things. And if democracy takes a hit, or becomes a mere facade, then so be it.

      This is why someone going against the US worldview, as Corbyn always has, was viewed as a monstrosity, and a threat. And it’s why Scottish independence will be fought equally as a threat to the system. For all we know, Sturgeon may privately share many of Corbyn’s views, many in the SNP certainly do, and Alex Salmond remember, pursued Blair over Iraq as a war criminal. But she perhaps realises, she’d be destroyed for expressing them, hence the softly, softly approach that is so infuriating. But there is a risk that they’ve soft-pedalled and rejected radicalism for so long now, they’ve become part of that establishment groupthink, forgetting why they wanted independence in the first place.

        • Stevie Boy

          “our adversaries, our enemies, military power, the West, global balances, the forces of darkness, … ad nauseum”
          Are you scared yet ?
          No-one ever talks about helping people or improving society it’s always about killing and destroying our assigned enemies and protecting our ‘way of life’ (ie. foodbanks, poverty, poor health, poor education, outsourced skills, corrupt housing market, rule by the 1%).
          Does anyone truly believe this is progress ?
          If we continue down this road war is guaranteed and we will be the losers.

          • Goose

            Robertson’s apocalyptic tone was due to the fact he didn’t believe back then, that Scotland would be allowed to join Nato with their policy of removing Trident from the Clyde.

            Nicola Sturgeon reaffirmed, in 2022, that it was her “expectation and hope” that removal could happen in the first parliament after a Yes vote. This came after she affirmed membership of the Nato alliance would be a “cornerstone” of Scotland’s defence in a speech in Washington DC?

            This is the thing, smaller partner countries get sucked in militarily and locked in to adopting the prevailing US geostrategic worldview. And it’s impossible to escape and stand alone, without offending Washington. The more hawkish a leader, acting as an echo of Washington, the more highly they are spoken of. A good example being Finland’s Sanna Marin, who’s now seriously being touted as a potential new head of the European Union’s Commission after talking up the total defeat of Russia at the WEF. You’d think with Finland’s history and that country’s central participation in Operation Barbarossa, she’d be more reticent about calls for escalation with Russia. Silly Sanna.

            Drifting off topic, but this is an interesting read about the German Green party conference, this is a party that was seen as deeply pacifist until relatively recently :

            From the piece dated October last year, but even more relevant today:

            “Former CIA Director Leon Panetta estimates the likelihood of tactical nuclear weapons being used in Ukraine at 25 percent. The response of the Greens is to pour oil on the fire and advocate further military escalation.”

          • Goose

            Defence and National security aren’t devolved obviously. So you do wonder if Sturgeon realises what a curtailment of sovereignty and the voters’ right to choose policy direction, through democracy, Nato membership and FVEYs membership involve?

            Certainly for an English speaking country it’s akin to say to the US ‘your enemies are my enemies’ and we forevermore accept the US decided worldview. Lesser members of these clubs can argue their case, in private. But ultimately it won’t change US foreign policy. These organisations and intel agencies have to operate like this, logically, as it’d be impossible to do sensitive intelligence and military tech sharing if a country had a totally different relation with say a country the US viewed as a foe. Trust would break down as it was reportedly doing over Jacinda Ardern’s approach to China. Lesson from New Zealand’s experience for Sturgeon.

  • fredi

    “The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.”

    Frank Zappa

  • paul

    Very much in agreement with this but….

    the SNP may move for Independence over self-ID, which is unpopular and affects a tiny number of people?

    It is framed for a tiny minority, but affects every female who desires to have separate safe spaces.
    That’s a lot of Scottish people affected.

  • ASC

    Craig, your position is entirely logical and ethically sound: self-determination, for trans people and Scotland.
    Do we really want the medical profession determining what gender you feel that, in your core, you were born with? Or Westminster to determine whether Scotland should be an independent people and nation? No.

  • SleepingDog

    So, if “gender reassignment affects only a very, very small proportion of the Scottish population” and “self-ID, which is unpopular and affects a tiny number of people” why in the context of the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill does our host “would have preferred some of the safeguarding amendments to have been passed”? Does not compute.

    Why, by implication, would making misogyny a hate crime have anything to do with identity politics?

    There are also unintended (predicted or otherwise) effects of policies, where provisions for monitoring are crucial, undermined of course by the Scottish Government’s insistence on not making a state distinction between women and trans women, or men and trans men, which should be concerning for everyone not least criminologists (the violent crime rates for women could multiply if trans women were included).

    I am also struck by how many advocates of ‘trans rights’ repeatedly fail to provide a suitable hyperlink; surely somewhere there should be lists purporting to represent a wide consensus, like there was during the latter stages of the women’s rights campaigns that led to near-universal adult suffrage in the UK? Could it be that a) there are no specific trans rights, just human rights, or b) if these ‘rights’ were listed, they would just look like privileges for special interest, like the option of changing your birth certificate? Incidentally, the solution to most birth certificate contentions, I feel, would be for the state to mandate an abbreviated version in most cases where birth sex is irrelevant, for the subject to use for things like, I dunno, applying for a driving licence?

    What distinguishes this form of self-ID from identity theft, in the broad sense of taking something without permission – even something inalienable (as presumably gender identity soullists purport to believe gender identity is inalienable)?

    • craig Post author

      Sleeping Dog

      I am entirely sober and not particularly tired, and we appear to be both using the English language, but in not a single one of your questions can I tease out a coherent logical thought to which I can reply.

      Can anybody parse them for me?

    • Colin Dawson

      Just to illustrate my point, in an interview with Vogue magazine on 29 October 2021, Sturgeon said she hopes she never has to shake another hand again, especially not a man’s.

      To me, this is misandry and, coming from the First Minister of Scotland, is completely unacceptable. This is not an isolated example of her misandry. I’m at a loss to understand why the mainstream media turn a blind eye to it.

      Can you imagine the reaction if a male politician said he hopes he never has to shake another hand again, especially not a woman’s? Or if a black politician said they hoped they never had to shake another hand again, especially not a white person’s? Or if a white politician said they hoped they never had to shake another hand again, especially not a black person’s? Or if a trans person said hey hoped they never had to shake another hand again, especially not a TERF’s? I could give plenty more examples of unacceptable discrimination.

      Discrimination and prejudice of any kind is unacceptable. The problem with hate crime legislation in Scotland and elsewhere is that some forms of discrimination have been criminalised and others have not.

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