Stepping back from the fray

This election campaign has been the nastiest, the most unpleasant and the most vitriolic that it has ever been my misfortune to experience. What’s made it even worse is that on top of the entirely expected abuse and insults from British nationalists, now it’s also coming from people who are supposedly on the same side.

As a result of ploughing a lonely furrow amongst Scottish independence bloggers and refusing to join in their campaign to unseat Nicola Sturgeon, my integrity and honesty were called into account. Since Alex Salmond launched his Alba party and I laid out my reasons for refusing to support it, the abuse and vitriol has only got worse. I had one charmer attempt to leave a comment on my blog saying, “I wish you had died instead of your dog.” There has been a nasty unpleasant homophobic undercurrent to some of the abuse. I’ve had people making snide and vicious remarks about the disabilities I’ve been left with after the stroke.

I’ve been accused of not really supporting independence and have been called a creep who is only interested in what I can raise through crowdfunding. Yet if that were true I’d have done what all the other bloggers were doing and would be praising Alex Salmond to the heavens while calling for Nicola Sturgeon’s head on a plate. It seems that a lot of people are now so angry and bitter that they cannot accept that someone might have principled reasons for having a difference of opinion – not even about the end goal – but about strategies and tactics for getting there.

I’ve always prided myself on my resilience and my ability to stand up to bullies. Unfortunately I’ve been finding it difficult to accept that since the stroke I no longer have the physical, mental, or emotional resources that I once had and am finding the current atmosphere extremely difficult to deal with. This is being made worse because the stroke has deprived me of the ability to enjoy the pastimes I used to do in order to relax and switch off. I can no longer do the tramway modelling I used to love and don’t know whether I’ll ever again be able to draw any new Gaelic maps.

I’d be lying if I said that the abuse wasn’t getting to me. My health is being negatively affected by the stress and my recovery seems to be going into reverse. I’m losing some of the movement I had regained in my hand and my speech is starting to slur again. I’m not sleeping or eating properly and have constant issues with my stomach and digestion. Every day is a constant battle with fatigue and exhaustion.

For the sake of my mental, physical and emotional well-being I need to step away from the fray, and switch off from all the toxicity, and concentrate on my health and recovery. Hopefully this election will deliver the pro-independence majority we all so desperately need, and then we can get back to making the arguments for independence in the independence campaign that lies ahead instead of trying to tear one another down. I will continue to write for The National but won’t be returning to the blog until after the election is over. Until then I must concentrate on my health and well-being. I’m sorry to let down supporters of this blog at this crucial time, but I hope you understand my reasons.

This is your reminder that the purpose of this blog is to promote Scottish independence. If the comment you want to make will not assist with that goal then don’t post it. If you want to mouth off about how much you dislike the SNP leadership ,or about some other issue not directly related to Scottish independence – there are other forums where you can do that. You’re not welcome to do it here.

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The suspicious case of the vanishing blog

Whenever some think tank or other produces a report claiming that an independent Scotland would be some sort of dystopian nightmare where public services would be slashed to the bone, or that there would be rolls of barbed wire all the way along the border from Gretna to Berwick, it always receives huge publicity in the Scottish press usually accompanied by apocalyptic headlines and a presentation on the BBC by Sarah Smith doing her trying but conspicuously failing not to look smug face. The report is equally invariably described as coming from an independent think tank, even when it has been issued by an avowedly right wing think tank with links to the conservative party. We are then treated to a barrage of assertions about how in an independent Scotland the streets will be full of greetin weans and starving puppies.

On the other hand, when there is some development that spells good news for independence, with the exception of the National, you’ll be lucky to find a two line mention halfway down page 23, squeezed between a news report about a fight in a pub in Kirkcaldy and an advertising feature about special offers on BBQ equipment in a garden centre in Blantyre.

You’d almost think that there was some sort of causal correlation between the fact that Scotland has an overwhelmingly anti-independence media whose preponderance of anti-independence headlines is wildly disproportional to the actual degree of anti-independence sentiment among the Scottish public and the difficulty of getting equal publicity for academic reports and think tanks which publish good news for independence.

This week however we witnessed a development which could potentially point to something more sinister going on than an overwhelmingly anti-independence commercial media choosing to highlight stories which reinforce a British nationalist narrative and downplaying stories which bolster the case for independence. There was a suggestion this week that the British government is intervening to censor and suppress academic research that is helpful to arguments in favour of Scottish independence.

Earlier this week the London School of Economics published on its blog an article by two academics, Dr Geoffrey Chapman and Dr Richard Mackenzie-Gray Scott. Dr Chapman is currently employed by the British Government as an economics advisor to the Department of International Trade. Dr Mackenzie-Gray Scott is a research fellow Research fellow at the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, the British Institute of International and Comparative Law.. Naturally the views expressed in their article are their own and not those of the Conservative Government for which Dr Chapman is an advisor. The article details ways in which Scotland could become independent and achieve international recognition as an independent state even if Westminster were to refuse to accept the result of a referendum held without Downing Street’s express consent. The authors point out the considerable political and legal difficulties and dangers which would arise for the British Government if it attempted to block a referendum in the courts once the Scottish Parliament had decided to proceed with one after receiving an unarguable democratic mandate from the Scottish electorate to do so. In this respect the report strongly validates the current Scottish government’s position of pressing ahead with a referendum under the aegis of Holyrood and daring the British Government to take legal action to block the exercise of Scottish democracy.

The report also notes that it may even be possible for Scotland to make a successful unilateral declaration of independence should Westminster refuse to accept the outcome of a referendum which had produced a majority for yes.

The main body of the report examines the economic impact of Scottish independence and argues that although the initial period of independence will have its challenges, in the medium to longer term everything suggests that the new Scottish state would be economically successful. The authors look at the position of the Czech and Slovak Republics after the dissolution of the former Czechoslovakia. Upon independence, Slovakia’s international trade was heavily slanted toward trade with its former partner in Czechoslovakia, however in the years since independence both the Czech Republic and Slovakia have rebalanced their international trade away from their former partners and toward trade with other states, particularly Germany.

The authors conclude that the potential for Scotland is even better than it was for either theCzech Republic or Slovakia, saying, “Scotland’s historic economic performance has been strong, which bodes well for a small, open and independent Scotland. With modest population growth alongside good GDP growth, supported by stable participation in international trade, it seems Scotland is in a far better initial condition than either the Czech or Slovak Republics, and can therefore expect similar (if not better) post-independence outcomes.”

The report concludes: “Considering Scotland has all the necessary machinery in place to become an independent state, we see no obvious reasons why Scotland would not succeed economically if it were to do so, especially if achieved within the bounds of the law. Although our findings might be controversial to some, we hope to show that Scottish independence, while not inevitable, is far more nuanced a matter than many have claimed. There exist several options worth pursuing for the parties to this debate.”

Their findings certainly seem to have been controversial with some. Within hours of the article being published, it was wheeched of the LSE website. If you now follow the original link to the article : you can no longer read the research. Instead the article has vanished and there’s a disclaimer saying “Update 2 April: We have been asked by the authors to take this article down temporarily. We will be making it available again as soon as we are able to and apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

However nothing ever truly disappears from the internet, and you can still see an archived version of the original article here:

AspokesTory for the department of International trade told the National newspaper: “This is not the view of the Department for International Trade or the UK Government, and the matter is being looked into.”

When Business for Scotland asked the British government whether it had pressurised the academics to delete the post,it would only reiterate that the article did not reflect the views of the British Government and refused to deny that it had put ant pressure on te academics to remove from the public view some research whose findings are politically damaging to British nationalist claims about the supposed “dangers” of Scottish independence.

In recent days we have seen newspapers publish polls whose methodology was changed in order to give false results favouring the Union and others lying about the poll results to get pro-Union headlines and only correcting the poll days later to show a significant lead for Yes, by which time the anti-independence parties have reaped the propaganda advantage.

It now looks as though the British state may be trying to suppress legitimate academic research because it undermines the false narrative being touted by the anti-independence parties. If that is indeed the case it merely proves just how worried they are and that they are realising that Scotland’s desire for independence is a force that they will be unable to resist. The title of this blog reads like the title of an Agatha Christie novel, that’s because the British state is trying to kill off hopes of independence by fair means or foul.

This is your reminder that the purpose of this blog is to promote Scottish independence. If the comment you want to make will not assist with that goal then don’t post it. If you want to mouth off about how much you dislike the SNP leadership ,or about some other issue not directly related to Scottish independence – there are other forums where you can do that. You’re not welcome to do it here.

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A significant force or RISE 2.0

Yesterday saw the publication of the first full scale opinion poll since the launch of the Alba party giving us all our first opportunity to gauge the possible electoral impact of Alex Salmond’s new party. Fieldwork for the poll, commissioned from Survation for DC Thompson publishers took place on Monday and Tuesday of this week, when media coverage of the new party and the former first Minister’s announcement that he was seeking to return to Holyrood was intense, and the press and broadcasters were consumed with speculation about how this development would affect the SNP’s chances in May’s election.

However despite the claims by some supporters of the new party that it was set to take a huge chunk of SNP support and to succeed in its declared aim of forming a pro-independence super-majority in the next Scottish Parliament, the new poll has found that the Alba party’s appeal looks likely to be far more limited. On the all important list vote where the Alba party is standing four candidates in each region of Scotland, the poll placed Alba on just 3%, meaning that on these figures, if they were evenly distributed across Scotland, the party would fail to win a single MSP. The Greens registered 11% on the list vote, whereas the LibDems seem set to take 8%.

Meanwhile the poll suggested that despite the inclusion of another pro-independence party on the ballot, the SNP still seem likely to win a narrow outright majority, taking 66 seats in total, while the Greens seem set to win 11 seats. That would produce an SNP-Green super-majority for independence in the new Parliament composed of 77 seats for pro-independence parties as opposed to just 52 seats for Labour, the Conservatives and the LibDems combined. The big losers look likely to be the Conservatives, who are forecast to lose 10 of their current 31 seats and be left with just 21, and will be overtaken by Labour as the second largest party. Labour is forecast to hold on to its current share of 24 seats but not to make any gains. These results would be a disaster for the Conservatives’ new Scottish leader and suggest that his tenure in post may be as brief as his predecessor Jackson Carlaw’s.

The poll also found that 71% of respondents had an unfavourable opinion of Alex Salmond and a majority of those asked believe that the Alba party is hindering the cause of independence.

It should immediately be noted that this poll does not mean that Alba has no chance of winning any seats, If the poll results were replicated uniformly across the country they would not, but that doesn’t take into account local and regional factors. Alex Salmond has a significant local support base in and around his old Westminster constituency in the north east and it remains likely that he could be returned on the list for the North East Scotland region, where he tops the Alba party list.

The Alba party’s supporters have tried to put a positive gloss on these figures, pointing out that their party’s support is registering in opinion polling despite only being in existence for a few days. A single poll does not a trend make, but the problem however is that new “insurgent” parties must make an immediate impact while they enjoy the full glare of media attention and publicity, and then must build on that momentum over the course of the election campaign when they can struggle to get their messaging across amidst the competition from the more established parties. With an initial breakthrough below the level necessary to win seats, and a broadly unfavourable public view of the party leader and his suspected true motives for setting up the new party, Alba is not dead on arrival, but the new party is going to struggle to establish itself as a viable contender among the general public outside its already committed and engaged support base on social media.

The real danger, if Alba remains on this level of support is that the new party will not attract enough votes to win any seats but will split the pro-independence vote on the list allowing a unionist party representative to slip in on fifth or sixth place and take a seat that might otherwise have gone to the SNP or the Greens.

The danger that the presence of Alba might unwittingly backfire and lead to greater anti-independence representation is being compounded by the behaviour of some of its angrier and more vociferous supporters online, who are calling for constituency ballots to be spoiled or even for constituency vote for Labour’s Anas Sarwar in the hope of unseating Nicola Sturgeon. There are those who have managed to convince themselves that Nicola Sturgeon is so opposed to independence that they would prefer to vote for an out and out unionist. This is a perfect example of allowing your anger to lead you into a situation where you not only cut off your nose to spite your face, but then you put your cut off nose through a sausage mincer and flush it down the toilet pan. Even on its own terms it is a spectacularly petulant and childish line of argument.

Politics, as this blog has frequently pointed out, is not about facts, it’s about narratives and stories. So let’s assume that the highly unlikely event of pro-independence Sturgeon haters succeeding in getting Anas Sarwar elected instead of Nicola Sturgeon does come to pass. Then, no matter how many pro-independence MSPs are elected to Holyrood, the only narrative in the media will be that the head of the SNP has lost her seat and this will be spun by the exultant Conservatives and their allies as “proof” that Scotland has rejected calls for another independence referendum. Even with substantial pro-independence majority in Holyrood it will provide Johnson and the Conservatives with the political capital that they need to block another independence referendum.

The success of Alba’s strategy crucially depends upon ensuring that the SNP sweeps the board in the constituency vote. Hopefully over the next few days Alex Salmond and other senior figures in Alba will send a message to the angrier end of their online support and remind them of that political reality and to ensure that even if they do not wish to actively support the SNP in the constituency vote, they cease trying to damage it, because by trying to hurt the SNP in the constituency vote they are only making it harder for their own party to achieve its goal. There will be more opinion polls to come. We will have to wait and see whether the Alba party will be a significant force in this election, or whether we are looking at RISE 2.0,  which was launched prior to the 2016 amid great excitement and hype, but which failed to rise, and just sank without trace on election day.

This is your reminder that the purpose of this blog is to promote Scottish independence. If the comment you want to make will not assist with that goal then don’t post it. If you want to mouth off about how much you dislike the SNP leadership ,or about some other issue not directly related to Scottish independence – there are other forums where you can do that. You’re not welcome to do it here.

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The question the BBC and the Tories don’t want to answer

Because I must have masochistic streak a mile wide, last night I watched what the BBC served up to us with the grandiose title of a leaders’ debate. Or rather, I tried to watch it but then halfway through lost the will to live and switched over to another channel, which proves two things: firstly that I can only have a masochistic streak that’s half a mile wide, and secondly that the BBC is an active participant in the campaign to prevent Scottish independence and intends to keep Scotland firmly under Westminster rule by dint of not taking independence seriously and boring us all into submission.

You can’t help but wonder if in between having discussions with Conservative politicians about just how many union flags ought to decorate the cover of the BBC’s annual report, the Corporation’s management had a strategy meeting in which they decided that the best way for a thoroughly British broadcaster to cover Scottish independence was to make it so dull and uninspiring that after thirty minutes viewers would be begging the BBC to make it stop and promising to resign themselves to Conservative rule from Westminster for all eternity just as long as they could watch Bargain Hunt instead. Which is terribly convenient for the British establishment because pinning all your hopes on being able to turn a profit from an over-priced broken down piece of tat that you’ve found at a car boot sale is the next reform to the social security system that the Tories have got in mind.

Not that Douglas Ross was at all keen to talk about the policies of his Westminster masters during last night’s, ahem, debate, but that didn’t prevent him from constantly trying to speak over the top of everyone else. Douglas was terribly keen to talk about one thing and one thing only. Here’s your handy summary of all that the Scottish Conservatives have to offer the people of Scotland in this election and for the next five years to come, badreferendumbadreferendumbadreferendumbadreferendum. That was all that Dross, who is rapidly living down to his nickname, could manage, even as he accused Nicola Sturgeon of being obsessed about a referendum. No matter the subject of the question, and there were plenty of soft balls being lobbed Dross’s way by a virtual audience who had clearly been selected by the same people who are in charge of picking the audience for an episode of BBC Question Time coming to you from a Brexity part of Essex which regularly elects a right wing hang ’em and flog ’em Tory MP. Although to be fair the BBC thinks that’s also a description that applies to Dundee.

Despite the fact that the issue of independence and a second independence referendum is central in this election campaign, the debate was constructed according to the BBC’s usual idea of balance. So we had two politicians who support another referendum up against three who oppose it. Alex Salmond and his new Alba party were noticeable only by their absence, presumably as a brand new party without any representation in Holyrood, and moreover one which would not even have been in existence when the BBC’s planning and organisation for last night’s debate was being carried out , the corporation felt that it was more appropriate not to invite them at the very last minute after the audience panel and their questions had already been selected and vetted.

Supporters of different parties will no doubt have different opinions about whether or not the BBC was correct to do that. However what cannot be disputed is that the BBC knew by last weekend that there are now three significant pro-independence parties contesting this election, and while it’s possible to understand why the Corporation did not change its plans at the last minute to take account of this new political reality, it’s far less possible to understand why, knowing as they did that supporters of independence were outnumbered three to two on the panel, the organisers selected three questions in a row which were hostile to independence out of the pre-approved questions which had been submitted well in advance by the virtual audience.

It’s very difficult to escape the conclusion that the BBC has learned absolutely nothing from the justified criticism it came in for for its heavily slanted coverage of the last independence referendum campaign.

Apart from the BBC, the big loser was Douglas Ross, for all that the virtual audience seemed to be disproportionately comprised of nodding heads who only nodded even more enthusiastically whenever Douglas appeared on screen to tell us that he didn’t want another referendum. He came across as childish and entitled, both in the manner in which he tried to talk over the top of the other speakers but also in his assertion that he would not work with an SNP government if that’s what the people of Scotland elected. But then we shouldn’t have been surprised by that, given that the entire platform of the Scottish Conservatives consists of ignoring the democratic will of the people of Scotland as expressed through the ballot box.

Of course the BBC won’t be keen to highlight the fundamentally anti-democratic position of the Scottish Conservatives. The party is of course perfectly entitled to argue against independence and to oppose holding another independence referendum, that’s their right in a democracy. However what they are not entitled to do is to continue to block another referendum after the people of Scotland have listened to their arguments and decided to vote to have one anyway. Neither do they have the democratic right to undermine and weaken the devolution settlement despite not possessing anything approaching a mandate from the people of Scotland giving their consent for them to do so. The fact that they are able to do just that using powers and authority which do not derive from the democratic choices of the people of Scotland is precisely the reason why it is imperative for Scotland to revisit the issue of independence. It is a question about the very future of democracy itself in this country. But that is a question which neither the BBC nor the Conservatives are at all comfortable about confronting.

Please note that there will not be a blog update tomorrow as I have to travel to the Southern General in Glasgow for physiotherapy treatment on my hand and arm.

This is your reminder that the purpose of this blog is to promote Scottish independence. If the comment you want to make will not assist with that goal then don’t post it. If you want to mouth off about how much you dislike the SNP leadership ,or about some other issue not directly related to Scottish independence – there are other forums where you can do that. You’re not welcome to do it here.

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Manny Singh, who some months back was convicted for his part in organising a pro-indy march and rally in Glasgow has recently found out that his taxi driving licence has been suspended. Irrespective of what you feel to be the rights and wrongs of that case, taxi-driving was his sole source of income and without the licence he is no longer able to support himself or his family. Manny has started a crowdfunder to pay for the legal fees to appeal this decision and to get his licence restored.

You can find out more about the case here:

A direct link to the crowdfunding page is here:

The common priority

The parties contesting the Scottish elections have started to delineate their pitch to the voters for the Holyrood elections which are now just a few weeks away. Yesterday Nicola Sturgeon gave her first big speech of the election campaign in which she set out some of the key promises and commitments of the SNP should her party be re-elected with sufficient support to form the next Scottish government. Among the most notable promises was a commitment to doubling the Scottish child payment from £10 a week to £20 a week for each eligible child. In another move designed to help tackle the issue of food poverty, the SNP leader announced that her Scottish Government would extend free school meals – both breakfasts and lunches – to all primary school pupils, in all classes, all year round.

This will make a significant difference to the lives of children living in families struggling with poverty as a result of the Conservative assault on the social security system and the way in which Conservative policies have encouraged a proliferation of low paid and insecure employment. According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, one of the UK’s leading charities working to solve the issue of poverty, over two thirds of children who live in poverty live in a household where at least one parent is in work. Since the Conservatives introduced its Universal Credit scheme, the number of families who must resort to foodbanks in order to put food on the table has soared. A recent report from the UK’s biggest food bank network said half of all households visiting food banks struggled to afford essential goods such as food and clothes because they were repaying universal credit debts.

Foodbank use in Scotland has soared in recent years, figures from the independent food aid network show that foodbanks distributed more than twice as many emergency food parcels in June and July 2020 as they did during the same months the previous year.  The report finds that a large and increasing number of people are falling through the widening cracks in a social security safety net that has been weakened and undermined by successive Conservative governments. Despite the Labour party’s attempts to pin the blame for the epidemic of child poverty that Scotland is faced with, the truth is that it is a direct result of the financial and economic policies of a Westminster government which jealously guards its control over the macroeconomic levers which exert the real influence over the shape and direction of the economy.

As welcome as a doubling of the Scottish child payment is, all that any devolved Scottish government is able to do is to ameliorate the worst problems created by the impact of social security, employment and economic decisions made by governments in Westminster, it can’t actually prevent those problems from arising in the first place. These problems have been greatly magnified by the Johnson administration’s woeful mishandling of the pandemic.

Over the coming months and years it’s going to be absolutely vital that Scotland charts a path out of the pandemic that leads to a rebuilding and developing of the Scottish economy in a way which tackles poverty and inequality in a secure and environmentally sustainable way. The only way that this can be achieved is by ensuring that Scotland’s parliament possesses the full range of powers that will enable it to do so. That in turn means independence.

The anti-independence parties will be fighting this election on the basis of their claim that the independence issue and the demand for another referendum are distractions from the vital task of rebuilding Scotland after the devastating personal, social and economic effects of the pandemic. They could not be more wrong and in her keynote speech yesterday, delivered online to party activists, Nicola Sturgeon tackled this claim head on, saying that “independence was not a distraction from the country’s recovery after the pandemic but was “essential to secure a recovery that is made here in Scotland and based on the values the majority of us subscribe to.”

It’s only with independence that Scotland can unlock this country’s full potential, and it’s only with independence that Scotland can free itself from the need to have to ameliorate Conservative economic policies that lead to an increase in poverty, deprivation and inequality. Another independence referendum is far from being the distraction that the Conservatives and their British nationalist allies claim it to be, it is absolutely vital to securing a recovery from the pandemic that benefits everyone in Scotland and which is designed to produce the best outcome for Scotland.

As the First minister said yesterday in her speech to party activists, this election will ensure that voters “have the right to decide our own future in an independent referendum when this current crisis has passed, so that Scotland’s recovery will be in Scotland’s hands, so we can build the Scotland that we know we can be, a country of compassion, equality and love”.

For their part the Scottish Greens can agree that independence is absolutely vital to realising their vision of a sustainable Scottish economy which can provide an environmental model for the rest of the world to follow. Independence and the referendum which is required to bring it about is not a peripheral issue or a distraction, it is absolutely essential if we want to realise that better Scotland to which we all aspire.

Although the new Alba party has yet to announce its policy programme, it will certainly do so over the days and weeks ahead. Whatever the details of that announcement there can be absolutely no doubt that the Alba party also shares the view of the other pro-independence parties that Scotland’s democratic right to another referendum is very far from being a distraction from the challenges that Scotland faces, but rather it is absolutely key to unlocking the incredible potential that this country possesses and to putting it to work in the best interests of the people of Scotland. Whatever our disagreements about strategy or tactics, or about the wisdom or otherwise of the launch of this new party, that at least is something about which all supporters of independence can agree.

This is your reminder that the purpose of this blog is to promote Scottish independence. If the comment you want to make will not assist with that goal then don’t post it. If you want to mouth off about how much you dislike the SNP leadership ,or about some other issue not directly related to Scottish independence – there are other forums where you can do that. You’re not welcome to do it here.

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Putting a stake through the heart of the Tories’ disrespect for democracy

I’ve made my views clear about the new Alba party and Alex Salmond’s real motivation for setting it up.  This blog will continue to advocate SNP 1 and SNP or Green 2 in the elections which are just six weeks away now and to provide a space for people who continue to support Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP.  But the Alba party has been launched now, it’s a done deal, and whatever our views about the former leader of the SNP and whether this move is a help or a hindrance to the independence cause, it’s in the interests of all of us to ensure that the presence of the Alba party increases rather than diminishes the total number of pro-independence MSPs in the next Scottish Parliament and that we maximise rather than reduce the total number of votes for all the pro-independence parties. Successful and pragmatic politics means dealing with the situation we actually find ourselves in, not the situation we wish we were in.

It is doubly important that we all now work to maximise the vote for pro-independence parties and to concentrate our rhetorical fire on the Conservative and Labour parties and not on each other because even should Alex Salmond succeed in his gamble with all our futures and we win a new Scottish Parliament with a healthy and unassailable pro-independence majority, Boris Johnson and the Conservatives will only seek to shift the goalposts and will point to the total vote share received by the pro-independence parties. If that total is less than 50% they will use it to claim that the people of Scotland have rejected independence and cite that as a reason why they feel justified in resisting the democratic will of the people of Scotland to revisit the question of Scotland’s constitutional relationship with the other nations in this wet and windy archipelago sitting just off the north west coast of Europe.

It will of course be an entirely specious and hypocritical argument. The vote that Scotland faces in a few weeks time is an election not a referendum, but when did hypocrisy ever stop a Tory? Under the rules of Westminster elections, the Conservatives got a mandate to pursue their vision of Brexit despite securing less than 45% of the popular vote. Under the rules of the far more proportional and fair electoral system used for Scottish Parliamentary elections, the if the pro-independence parties win a majority of the available seats they will likewise secure a mandate to pursue their policy of a second Scottish independence referendum even if their total vote share is slightly less than 50%. Them’s the rules. The Tories don’t get to retrospectively change those rules just because the outcome was not to their liking.

Nevertheless that won’t stop the Conservatives and their allies from trying. They will be aided in their efforts by the BBC and the overwhelmingly anti-independence media. That makes it all the more important that as independence supporters we redouble our efforts to attack the anti-independence parties and rebut their arguments in order to minimise their voter appeal as much as we possibly can and by reducing the anti-independence vote to a minimum to deprive Johnson and his allies of any wriggle room.

Over in the Scotsman, the Über unionist British nationalist Brian Monteith is getting his excuses in early. In an article published today he accuses Alex Salmond of plunging a stake into the heart of Scottish democracy. To be fair Brian knows a lot about plunging stakes into the heart because he’s a long-standing close associate of Michael Forsyth, the Thatcherite Dracula of Scottish politics. It’s pretty rich of a man who has argued that the Conservatives in Westminster should simply ignore and override the outcome of a Scottish election to argue that someone else is plunging a stake into the heart of democracy by [checks notes] standing for election in a democratic election, but as previously noted the Conservatives are no strangers to hypocrisy. They are however most definitely strangers to self awareness.

Of course what is really thrusting a stake through the heart of Scottish democracy is a Conservative government in Westminster which, without any democratic mandate for it in Scotland whatsoever has unilaterally embarked upon a weakening and hollowing out of a devolution settlement which Scotland overwhelmingly supported in the referendum of 1997 and which the people of this country were promised would be strengthened and entrenched in return for a no vote in the referendum of 2014. Yet despite receiving nothing from the people of Scotland which remotely approaches a mandate for reducing the powers of the Scottish Parliament or allowing Westminster to intervene in areas which are supposed to be devolved, that is precisely what the Conservatives are doing.

Furthermore the Tories have made no bones about their intentions to disrespect the outcome of the Holyrood elections if the people of Scotland give their parliament a mandate for a second independence referendum. It is because Scotland possesses no mechanisms within the structures of the British state as it is currently constituted in order to ensure that a British government must comply with the democratic will of the people of Scotland, and because the promises and commitments made to Scotland by the Better Together parties in 2014 have been so comprehensively traduced that so many people in this country believe that we must revisit the question of independence as a matter of urgency. The fact is that Scottish democracy faces an existential threat from this Conservative government.

The thrust of Brian Monteith’s article was to complain about the supposed unfairness of pro-independence parties gaming the system by calling on the anti-independence to game the system themselves. The Conservatives have indicated that they may not stand candidates in certain seats in order to encourage anti-independence voters to vote tactically. That only reinforces the importance of supporters of the Alba party campaigning to ensure that the SNP sweeps the board in the constituency vote, the success of their party’s super-majority strategy depends on it. As independence supporters above all we must use these elections to thrust a stake through the heart of the Conservatives’ anti-democratic vision for an emasculated and enfeebled Scottish parliament and not to shoot ourselves in the foot.

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Finding common ground

It cannot be stressed enough just how important the May elections are for the future of Scotland.

If we are all truly committed to the ideal of an independent Scotland and a permanent escape from the appalling realities of Brexit Britain and the cruel, heartless and callous future that Johnson’s right wing English nationalist Conservative party has in store for us, then we must all strive to make the best of the political situation the independence movement is currently in and not to carp and complain about not having the set of political circumstances that each of us with our different political and social views might consider ideal. We must work to get the best possible outcome from the cards that have been dealt and which are actually on the table.

For all the current difficulties and divisions, the foundations of the independence movement remain strong. Even in the absence of a date for a referendum, which would serve to concentrate the minds of that huge part of the population which does not habitually engage with politics, for over a year opinion polling has demonstrated that a half or more of the population of Scotland favours independence. Among younger age groups, support for independence is overwhelming, meaning that we can expect to see support for independence grow over time among the population as a whole. We are not yet quite at the point where support for independence is the settled will of the people of Scotland, but that is what the demographic trend very clearly points to.

For Alex Salmond supporters, making the best of the current situation means accepting that the campaign to unseat Nicola Sturgeon has failed. She’s not going anywhere. Furthermore the constant attacks on her from supporters of Alex Salmond merely risk alienating undecided and swithering voters who are put off by the sight of a divided movement which seems more interested in arguing amongst itself than in attacking the anti-independence parties or in pointing out the dangers posed by the Conservatives or the lack of any convincing solution to the constitutional issue from the Labour party. That risks driving down the SNP vote in the coming election, which is counterproductive for Alex Salmond’s supporters as the success of his new party and its strategy of maximising the number of pro-independence MSPs crucially depends upon ensuring that the SNP sweeps the board in the constituency vote.

The key problem here is that the supermajority strategy of the Alba Party is fundamentally a strategy for maximising the number of pro-independence MSPs, it is essentially a proposal to carve up the pro-independence vote in what is hoped will be a more productive manner, it will not in itself increase the pro-independence vote in any significant way. The big danger is that if Salmond’s supporters do not cease their attacks on Nicola Sturgeon and her supporters they run a very real danger of damaging and decreasing the total pro-independence vote. This is all the more of an issue because the mere existence of Alex Salmond’s new party ensures that the narrative of a divided SNP and the fall out between the current and former leader of the SNP will remain dominant in this election campaign, particularly in a Scottish media which is overwhelmingly anti-independence and which seeks anything which it can use to minimise the pro-independence vote. Alex Salmond’s decision to associate himself and his new party with deeply divisive figures like Stuart Campbell only makes that easier for them.

Supporters of Alex Salmond need to accept that Nicola Sturgeon is still very firmly in place and must move on from their failed efforts to remove her from office, instead they must focus on doing what their leader called for, which is working to build a supermajority for independence in the coming elections. That means doing what they can to maximise the pro-independence vote, and critically for the success of the Alba party’s plan, to ensuring that the SNP sweeps the board in the constituency vote. That in turn requires that they stop their attacks on Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP and start to focus on attacking the British nationalist parties and highlighting that they have nothing to offer Scotland.

Equally supporters of Nicola Sturgeon need to accept that Alex Salmond isn’t going to just go away. They may have hoped that having failed to unseat Nicola Sturgeon he would quietly pack his bags and head off into retirement, but that isn’t going to happen any more than Nicola Sturgeon is going to resign as leader of the SNP. He has launched his new party now and just as his supporters need to cease their attacks on Nicola Sturgeon so as not to damage the total independence vote, so supporters of Nicola Sturgeon need to stop attacking Alex Salmond for the exact same reason. As far as the attacks on each other are concerned, everyone needs to wheesht for indy.

Both Salmond and Sturgeon are formidable politicians. Both of them have significant numbers of supporters. Neither of them is going to back down. This is a far from ideal situation that we are in but we have to make the best of it and work to ensure that the next Scottish elections deliver that all important pro-independence majority. Above all that means ceasing the vitriolic personal attacks on other independence supporters, making the positive arguments for independence, attacking the forces of British nationalism who are the only beneficiaries of our divisions, and finding common ground. In yesterday’s blog I made my own feelings about this new party clear, but the new party has happened now and the only priority for those of us in the grassroots is to ensure a strong pro-independence majority in May. That means finding a message around which we can all coalesce.

The message now for independence supporters should be to vote SNP in the constituency vote and in the list to give your vote to the pro independence party whose policies are most in tune with your own views and opinions. For me that means voting SNP 1 & 2, but I am not going to attack, criticise, or question the motives of those who have a different opinion, and I trust that those people will pay the same courtesy to me and others who retain our trust in Nicola Sturgeon to deliver a referendum. The toxic divisions and infighting need to end, because if they do not, we will all lose and this period in Scottish politics will go down in the history books as a prime example of this nation’s unfortunate habit of wresting defeat from the jaws of victory.

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It’s still SNP 1 & 2 for me

It was always obvious that Alex Salmond wasn’t going to stand for one of the existing minor parties. He was always going to set up a new party that he could be the undisputed leader of. We can at least be grateful for the small mercy that he has called upon his supporters to vote SNP in the constituency vote despite the best efforts of some of the more trenchant critics of Nicola Sturgeon who spoke at the launch of the new Alba party to get him to say otherwise. However this new party has got SNP spoiler written all over it, and for all the talk of winning a super-majority for independence in the Holyrood elections in May, it is difficult to resist the conclusion that Alex Salmond’s true goal is to deprive Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP of winning an overall majority by themselves and so having to rely on Alex Salmond’s party in order to ensure that pro-independence majority.

This new party may succeed in its aim of boosting the total number of pro-independence MSPs, but it is just as possible that Alex Salmond has over-estimated his own popularity and will only succeed in splitting the pro-independence vote and allowing opponents of independence to slip in under the wire because the pro-indy vote on the list is now split between the SNP, the Greens and Alex Salmond’s new vehicle. The events of recent months have done considerable damage to the reputation of a man who was already the marmite of Scottish politics. I am not sure that he really appreciates that.

I am not denigrating the undoubted political talents of Alex Salmond, but he is not infallible. This new party is a dangerous tactic typical of a gambler, and moreover one from a man who despite his undoubted contribution to advancing the cause of independence has in the past made a number of unforced tactical and strategic errors, the consequences of which still dog the independence movement today. Time will tell whether this will prove to be another one, I genuinely hope it’s not. It’s all very well choosing to gamble with your own political career, however it is another level of hubris entirely when you choose to gamble with what is our best and potentially only chance of winning independence for decades to come. If this gamble fails, he risks going down in history as the man who threw away our best chance of independence because of his ego and his resentments.

It’s because of Alex Salmond’s unnecessary rhetorical flourishes that we currently labour under a Conservative administration which constantly throws the once in a generation line back in our faces, allowing them to stand in the way of the will of the people of Scotland while hiding behind a convenient fig leaf of an excuse which disguises their true anti-democratic nature. It’s because Alex Salmond made a needless political error of judgement that we are constantly fending off the what currency will you use question from opponents of independence. In no other country seeking independence is the question of currency pivotal in the independence debate, but it is in Scotland because of Alex Salmond’s decision to say he wanted a post-independence currency union with the rest of the UK. He created a huge open goal for the Better Together campaign because in effect he was saying,”Westminster we want independence from you, but hey, we want you to cooperate with us on on this key aspect of our economic policy.” Of course the Westminster parties were going to take advantage of this open goal by saying no, and they have continued to take advantage of the doubt and confusion it created ever since.

True leadership sometimes means swallowing personally unpalatable truths for the greater good. That’s a test that Alex Salmond has failed. To say that I am saddened and disappointed by a man who was once a huge personal hero is something of an understatement. A true leader would have said to all the pro-independence critics of the SNP : “This isn’t about me, I am prepared to lay to one side my misgivings and disappointment in the current leadership of the SNP in the name of securing a solid SNP majority in these crucial elections which lie ahead, and building a secure and stable platform from which to wrest another referendum from Westminster. If I can do that, so can you.”

But that’s not what he has done. Instead he has created a vehicle in which he personally can be the dominant force, making it look as though he is prioritising his own needs and interests. The biggest danger is that by creating a credible pro-independence list party, he gives succour to those critics of the SNP who are looking for an excuse not to vote SNP in the constituency vote. Some of them may now be more likely to assuage their fears of a British nationalist winning by telling themselves that even though they are boycotting the SNP in the constituency vote they are still casting a pro-independence vote in the list. However the Alba party’s strategy to maximise the independence vote can only succeed if the SNP manage to hoover up almost all the available constituency seats. That in turn will only be sucessful if Alex Salmond can rein in the vociferously anti-SNP element among his supporters and encourage them not to undermine the SNP’s support in the constituency vote  – and ideally to work to maximise the SNP vote in the constituencies. Given that the press conference announcing the launch of this new party prominently featured the toxic Stuart Campbell, who remained eager to use the occasion to get a few digs in at the SNP’s expense, the signs of this happening are not good, and raises additional questions about Alex Salmond’s judgement.

It was already difficult for the average voter to make a principled decision about tactical voting on the list in the Additional Member System used for Holyrood elections. Now instead of weighing up a decision about whether it is better to vote SNP on the list or the Greens, discounting for the time being minor parties which gain no traction, the pro-independence voter is faced with a three way choice, and the chances of an anti-independence candidate managing to slip in due to a divided pro-independence vote are consequently magnified. Now instead of simple slogan SNP 1& 2 the voter needs to be guided by a complex formula which will differ in different areas and which in any case will not become apparent until immediately before the vote, by which time it’s too late to get the message out. I sincerely hope that this unecessary gamble succeeds and produces a healthy pro-independence majority, but I fear today’s development will make that harder, not easier, to achieve. For that reason It’s still SNP 1 & 2 for me.


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The Tories stare into the abyss

So that’s Ruth Davidson off to ermine bedecked pastures new. The great renaissance of the Scottish Tories that her many media hypesters claimed that she heralded has proven to be ephemeral. She leaves behind a Conservative party that according to the most recent poll is in serious danger of losing a slew of seats at the Scottish election in May and slipping into third place behind the Labour party. This is because whereas Ruth was able to present a veneer of modernity and when she became leader headed a pro-EU party which promised to strengthen and deepen the devolution settlement, the Conservatives are now the party of Brexit and an aggressive and uncompromising English nationalism which seeks to use the Brexit that Scotland didn’t vote for and doesn’t support in order to undermine and hollow out the devolution that Scotland did vote for and does support. While there was always little of substance to Ruth, she did at least give good PR, was comfortable in front of the cameras, and was always ready with a quip or a cheeky photo op. On the other hand when her successor Douglas Ross appears before the cameras he always manages to give the unfortunate and uncomfortable impression that someone has rammed a broom handle up his arse.

To make matters much worse, Douglas and his colleagues have nothing positive to offer the voters of Scotland in this election. Telling voters that you are going to ignore what they vote for and then impose your policies on them anyway is not an attractive look for a political party which claims to be democratic, but that’s exactly where the Conservatives are in this election. They threw everything into their attempt to unseat Nicola Sturgeon, which was the only strategy that they had for this election. Not only did they fail, they were also exposed as shoddy and shameful political opportunists, preaching hypocritically about standards of government in Scotland while turning a blind eye to the rampant corruption, breaches of the ministerial code, lethal incompetence, lies, and deceit, which characterise the behaviour of their colleagues in Westminster.

The problems for the Scottish Conservatives are compounded by the fact that the Scottish elections of 2016 were something of a high point for them and they won many seats on the slimmest of margins. Many of those seats can be lost to them if their share of the vote slips back by even a couple of percentage points. In 2016 Brexit hadn’t happened and most of us in Scotland didn’t expect it was going to happen There was no realistic prospect of another independence referendum for possibly another decade to come, and so in that election there was not the same urgency as there is now for independence supporters to turn out and vote for a pro-independence party. In 2016 I didn’t vote for my local SNP candidate in the constituency vote (although I did vote SNP on the list) because of his opposition to equal marriage and his support for the teaching of creationism in schools. In this election if I still lived in his constituency I’d have no hesitation in voting for him. Ensuring that we have a strong pro-independence majority in the next Scottish parliament is the over-riding priority. We may not get another chance.

There is a small but vocal minority who claim that they support independence but that they are not going to support Scotland’s largest pro-independence party in this election because of what they claim is corruption or because of the party’s support for certain policies which they dislike but which don’t directly have anything to do with independence. No doubt they are under the influence of a particular individual who has set out to burn down the entire independence movement because it refuses to accept his own estimation of himself as an infallible genius who can do no wrong, some of them are even claiming that they don’t want independence until the leadership of the SNP has been cleared out and replaced with one more to their liking. Usually these comments are prefaced with an assertion to the effect that the individual concerned has been a member of the SNP since 1314 and went leafleting in Bannockburn with King Robert the Bruce.

Although they are loud and vocal on social media, such people seem to have a very limited impact in the real world. An opinion poll for panelbase which was published today shows that the SNP remains on course to win a majority in May and the Greens look set to make substantial gains. The Tories are staring into the abyss and could well fall into third place behind Labour. The real priority of anyone who supports independence is to help make sure that happens. It’s certainly the focus of this blog and will continue to be so

However even if we do accept the premise that the SNP leadership is fundamentally corrupt – which I don’t – this is an argument which fails even on its own logic. What these people are essentially saying is that they want to consign Scotland to the rule of a corrupt government in Westminster which the people of Scotland cannot vote out of office because they cannot countenance the prospect of a corrupt government in Holyrood which the people of Scotland can vote out of office. After all, the entire point of independence is to ensure that the people of Scotland get the governments we vote for. If you don’t like what the SNP are doing, you’ll have a remedy for it in an independent Scotland.

Yet what makes this argument even less logical is that if we do not elect a pro-independence majority in May and press ahead with a successful referendum, that corrupt government in Westminster is very likely to take steps to ensure that there will never again be another independence vote and that Scotland will remain in perpetuity under the thumb of whoever wins a plurality of the vote in England under the undemocratic first past the post system to which Westminster is wedded. To be brutally frank about it, it saying that you are an independence supporter who no longer wants independence because you dislike the leadership of the SNP is not so much a political strategy as it is an exercise in spitting out the dummy.

Talking of spitting out the dummy, I have been informed that Stuart Campbell has published a blog piece today attacking me and everyone else who he feels has done him wrong, telling his dwindling band of supporters to stop supporting us. I have not read the piece and have no intention of doing so, yet I have noticed that three people have cancelled monthly automatic donations to this blog, however three new people have started them, and in addition there was a not insignificant one-off donation from someone saying she was grateful to see that I was standing up to Campbell. His influence is clearly not what he thinks it is.

Normally I would not have bothered to mention any of this, I prefer to rise above the petulant attacks and carry on regardless. The only reason I mention this is because others are also finding themselves the objects of Campbell’s ire. The estimable iScot magazine is also on his hit list. It’s a high quality glossy magazine which is well worth a read whether you support independence or not. So let Stuart Campbell know that you will not allow him to burn down the entire independence movement in a fit of pique and take out a subscription today.  He does not own this movement and we will not be beholden to him.  You can subscribe to iScot at the following link.


Update: 7.45pm  There have now been nine new monthly donations set up and a considerable number of one off donations including one for a substantial sum.  If Stuart Campbell is reading this, perhaps this tells you that the true extent of your influence is very far from what you think it is, sitting as you do in your little bubble of acolytes.  You are a busted flush.  You told people to stop supporting this blog, the opposite has happened.  Tomorrow please write another of your bile filled hate articles  attacking me, I’m sure it will only increase support for this blog even more.

This is your reminder that the purpose of this blog is to promote Scottish independence. If the comment you want to make will not assist with that goal then don’t post it. If you want to mouth off about how much you dislike the SNP leadership ,or about some other issue not directly related to Scottish independence – there are other forums where you can do that. You’re not welcome to do it here.

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