The C-word

I apologise to readers for once again devoting time and energy to the C-word. I would not have mentioned Stuart Campbell again were it not for the fact that he is once more using his blog to attack me, as he flounces off in a huff, and it is important that I set the record straight about what really happened as it will not be apparent from the one sided and self-serving account being set out by Campbell.

After my very public falling out with the fake reverend and his followers towards the beginning of the election campaign I received a communication from a woman whose identity I will not disclose. Campbell has a great many enemies. She made an allegation that Campbell had behaved in an inappropriate manner with another person.

I did not share this information with anyone, but I reached out in private to the woman who was allegedly the victim in order to inquire if the allegation was true, and whether she wished to make a complaint about it if it was.

She replied to tell me that she was distressed and upset to find herself being drawn into a dispute between two prominent bloggers and that anything that had occurred between her and Campbell was a private matter which was entirely consensual.

I immediately apologised for causing her any distress and assured her that the information I had received had not and would not go any further. Having been satisfied that the allegation being made could not be substantiated, and that the information I had received did not appear to be true, as far as I was concerned the matter was over. One short email was the extent of the “harrassment” which Campbell accuses me of.

Late that night I received an angry email from Campbell calling me “sick”. This was followed some time later by another angry email in which Campbell claimed that the only reason he had not already reported me to the police was out of his concern for the feelings of the woman. This was followed an hour later in the wee small hours of the morning by yet another furious email which was more directly threatening. Campbell asserted that if I ever “tried to pull this slimeball shit” again he would have the police at my door “quicker than I could pee.” He need not worry about that, because if in future I ever receive information detailing a similar allegation against him, I will call the police myself.

I will not be bullied, threatened or intimidated by Stuart Campbell. His threat to call the police was risible, hysterical, and typical of a bully. I acted entirely appropriately and with integrity. An allegation was made by a third party, and while protecting the privacy of all concerned – including Campbell – I made a discreet inquiry in order to discover whether the allegation could be verified. As it transpired it could not be verified and I did not pursue things any further. The only reason I am mentioning any of this now is because in an effort to impugn me even more than he has already Campbell is claiming that I acted inappropriately and in the process is causing further distress to the woman whose feelings he claims to be concerned about.

All did was to carry out a basic and entirely ethical journalistic practice upon receipt of information- which I did not solicit – making an allegation of misconduct. If someone had shared information with Campbell alleging that I or anyone else on his long and ever lengthening list of enemies was guilty of a form of personal misconduct, he would have done exactly the same. It is disingenuous in the extreme for him to imply otherwise. If anyone had threatened him with the police for daring to follow up a lead that he’d received, he’d be the first to scream about a police state and how his freedom of speech and the freedom of the press were under threat. It’s not the first time Campbell has been exposed as a hypocrite, I’m sure it won’t be the last.

The fact that he is using this episode in order to continue his obsessive vendetta against me only provides further evidence that the only feelings he truly cares about are his own. His laughable bullying threat to call the police on anyone who dares to try and ascertain whether there is any truth in an allegation of misconduct made against him merely demonstrates that in Campbell’s eyes when a woman makes an allegation of misconduct against a powerful man, the allegation should be instantly dismissed without any scrutiny or investigation. I will leave you to draw your own conclusions about what this tells us about his much vaunted “standing up for women’s rights.”

I will now get back to ignoring Campbell and allowing him to howl into the void of his own irrelevance. Incidentally, I am not quite sure why Campbell ever called me a backstabber. I was quite sure I’d stabbed him in the front.

Now that the dust has settled

The dust is starting to settle after the election campaign, so it’s time for an assessment of the results and what they mean, most importantly what do they mean for independence. I’ve never bought into the conspiracy theory that Nicola Sturgeon doesn’t really want independence. She is by nature a cautious person and she knows that irrespective of the outcome, the next Scottish independence referendum will be the last.

Either the referendum will secure Scotland’s independence, or we will lose and Westminster will take legislative steps to ensure that there will never be another. There’s little doubt that the SNP leadership was seriously spooked by the party’s heavy losses in the snap General Election of 2017 and put the issue of independence on the back burner fearing that attempting to force the question would only result in a referendum defeat that Scotland could ill afford. At the time support for independence was still bumping along in the mid 40s % range. Back then independence supporters would have bitten the hand off any polling company showing a 51% figure for Yes. Nowadays we take that level of yes support for granted.

Times have changed. Although support for independence seems to have declined from the high of 58% achieved in one opinion poll some months ago, it’s still higher than it was in 2017 and it is no longer a surprise to see a poll showing a Yes majority. Although Scotland seems fairly evenly split on the question of independence we would be entering an independence campaign with the support of half the country. Brexit has happened. We have a public which has more confidence in the Scottish government’s handling of the greatest global crisis since WW2 than it does in the British government.Nothing can be taken for granted but the independence movement is in a much stronger position than it has ever been.

We’ve just gone through an election campaign in which the issue of another referendum dominated. Despite a concerted and suspiciously well funded tactical campaign from anti-independence organisations , they failed to prevent the election of a parliament with a strong pro-independence majority and failed to deprive the SNP of any seats. Indeed the pro-independence SNP and Greens were the only parties which gained seats in this election. Even with a significant tactical vote the anti-independence parties either stood still or lost seats.

It should not be forgotten that there was no Unionist tactical vote in 2011 when the SNP won a majority. That makes the SNP’s achievement at this election all the more remarkable. Despite significant unionist tactical voting in the constituency vote, the SNP gained seats and came within one seat of an outright majority in its own right. Together with the Greens there’s now 72 pro-independence MSPs versus just 57 who are opposed.

Despite what they say for public consumption, the anti-independence parties and in particular the Tories are very much aware that this election delivered an unarguable mandate for another independence referendum. Former Conservative spin doctor Andy Maciver admitted to STV  that senior figures in the party privately accept that there’s a mandate for another referendum and if democracy is to mean anything at all, a referendum will have to take place. Certainly the issue of independence is not going to go away and eventually it will have to be settled one way or another in a referendum.

The SNP leadership is well aware that this election victory is its last chance. This Scottish Parliament and government must deliver an independence referendum within the term of this Parliament. If it does not it’s probably game over for the SNP – and certainly for its current leadership.

This election also saw the first outing for a party born out of anger and frustration at the perceived lack of progress to another referendum and a more widespread dissatisfaction among segments of the independence movement with the SNP. However the Alba party performed poorly and fell far short of the excited predictions made by some of its supporters upon its launch. Some had claimed that the new party could take 30% or more of the SNP’s list vote, The SNP took 40.3% of the list vote and won 1,094,374 votes. If Alba had succeeded in taking a third of the SNP’s list vote the new party could have won over 300,000 votes and around 12% of the total list vote. In the event it managed just under 45,000 votes and 1.7% of the vote share.

Alba is a party founded by independence supporters who are hostile to the SNP. Following its poor performance in the election its supporters have continued to blame the SNP for Alba’s defeat and for advocating SNP 1 & 2 votes. However no political party on the planet is going to advise its supporters to vote for another party – moreover a new party created out of hostility and anger towards its leadership, policies and strategy. It was always naive and unrealistic for Alba supporters to think that the SNP ought to have tacitly supported an Alba vote on the list. You don’t get to piss on someone’s picnic and then complain that they don’t invite you for tea and cake.

In any event voters are not robots. The SNP cannot compel anyone to vote for it. If Alba is to continue as a credible political force its supporters must look past their anger with the SNP and ask themselves why their new party proved not to be an attractive option for the great majority of the independence supporting general public. If they seek to have a significant impact in the independence process , the new party’s supporters need to get past their SNP coulda shoulda woulda and consider how to improve their own appeal to the electorate the next time around.

We’re not going to have an independence referendum while covid remains a serious threat to public health. Realistically it will be 2022 or 2023 before we have a referendum but I have no doubt that a referendum will happen within the next couple of years. If we want to win that referendum it is sensible to wait until we can once again do the sort of grassroots face to face campaigning which did so much to boost the yes vote in 2014. That’s vitally important in a country such as Scotland where the traditional media is overwhelmingly opposed to independence. Alba’s failure in this election proves the point. Theirs was by necessity an almost entirely online campaign, but it clearly failed to break out of its social media bubble. The result proves the limitations of pro-indy blogs , twitter accounts, Facebook pages and websites (this one included.)  A social media campaign can only succeed as an adjunct to a grassroots “real world” campaign, not as a replacement for it.

When the referendum happens the parties of British nationalism are going to throw everything at us. They will go into the campaign knowing that there is a serious risk of losing. They will not make the mistakes they did in 2014 when for months their campaign was characterised by arrogant complacency. The task for independence supporters now is to ensure that we are ready for them.  It’s time to prepare.

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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Getting back on the horse

Well first things first. Despite the spin you’ll hear in the media from anti-independence parties and their supporters, the SNP won this election. It won decisively and handsomely. Scotland has chosen a majority Green and SNP pro-independence Parliament elected with an unambiguous mandate to deliver another independence referendum within the term of this new Parliament.

There’s now going to be a huge constitutional battle between the Scottish Parliament and the Conservative government over Scotland’s right to hold another independence referendum within the term of this Scottish parliament. As supporters of independence we now need to get behind our parliament in asserting the need for the democratic choices of the people of Scotland to be respected. We also need to recognise that this election has proven that a large number of people in this country have yet to be persuaded that independence is the way ahead. The task over the months and weeks ahead is to assert the democratic right of the people of Scotland to another referendum and to reach out to those still unsure and undecided and to persuade them of the need for independence.

The parties that got hammered in the Scottish elections are claiming that the party which beat them by 20% hasn’t got a mandate to implement its manifesto because it did not win an outright majority in an electoral system designed to make outright majorities next to impossible. Irrespective of what you think about independence, this is an extremely dangerous precedent for our democracy. It’s deeply misleading to present the possibility of an astonishingly rare outright majority within a proportional system by using the language and expectations of first past the post. Legitimacy in Holyrood comes from multiple parties coming together to form a majority. That’s how our electoral system is supposed to work, and between them the pro-independence SNP and Greens have achieved that majority. To deny their legitimacy to implement their mandate is to deny democracy itself. In 2015 David Cameron’s Conservatives won the UK election with a manifesto commitment to hold a Brexit Referendum. They went on to deliver on that pledge. They did so having won 36.9% of the vote. The SNP and the Greens stood on a platform of support for another referendum. They won. Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems stood on a platform of opposition to another referendum. They lost.

I’ve had a few weeks to recover, rest and reflect. I’m slowly recovering, but the reality is that there’s a very high chance that I will be left with permanent or at least long term damage from the stroke. It’s highly likely that sensation and full movement will never return to my left hand side and I am unlikely ever to regain the dexterity I used to have in my dominant hand. Fatigue continues to be a serious problem. I have constant pain in my left leg ,arm and shoulder. Every day is a battle against debilitating exhaustion and I’ve had to learn the hard way what my new – and restricted – limits are. If I overdo things, as I did as this election campaign began, I hit a brick wall. So with all this in mind I’ve made some decisions about the future of this blog and my continuing involvement in the independence movement.

As regular readers of this blog know, I never bought into the narrative that Alba was pushing. However I am surprised by how poorly they performed. Many believed that the new party was merely a personal vehicle for Alex Salmond to get revenge on Nicola Sturgeon. Whether that was a fair assessment or not, it meant that Alba was always going to struggle to get SNP supporters on board. Its difficulties in establishing itself as a broad church indy party which could attract wide support were compounded by some of the party’s supporters who took to promoting homophobic and transphobic scare stories online. These two factors made Alba toxic in the eyes of many. I never expected the party to help win a supermajority, but I did think that it might pick up a seat or two.

We’ve now had two Scottish elections where a new pro-independence party has called on its supporters to vote tactically on the list. Rise in 2016 and now Alba. Both attempts failed to produce a single MSP. Perhaps now we can agree that tactical voting on the list is fraught with difficulty and more likely than not to fail. The only successful tactical voting in Scottish elections is that used by unionists in the first past the post system used in the constituencies and that only has success because the anti-independence vote is split between three main parties.

It should be clear by now that scaremongering about Scotland’s tiny minority of transgender people or making the outrageously homophobic claim that the leading gay rights organisation in the country is secretly campaigning to reduce the age of consent to ten and to legalise paedophilia are not vote winners in modern Scotland. That’s a testament to the maturity of the people of Scotland. Opposition to gender recognition is a topic which consumes and obsesses some people online – but it does not have the traction among the wider public that people in the so-called “gender critical” social media bubble think it does.

I’m glad that the bigoted scaremongering found no traction amongst the wider public, however the vast majority of ordinary Alba supporters are not bigots and were simply frustrated at what they felt was a lack of progress towards independence. Alba’s failure is not something to gloat about. We need to put the divisions behind us and unite around making the case for independence. The real battle we face is with Westminster, not with one another.

I’ll be honest, I came very close to packing it all in. I have been battling ill health, and battling British nationalists, that’s more than enough for anyone. For a long time I have been ploughing a lonely furrow as one of the few indy bloggers from 2014 who is still focused on supporting the largest pro-independence party ,on making the case for independence and on attacking the parties of British nationalism, and ultimately that is why I have decided to keep going.

Sadly I have no confidence that certain of Alba’s online supporters will cease their attacks on Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP. They will continue to undermine the Scottish government and the case for independence. The results of this election prove that there are still large numbers of people in Scotland who are unconvinced about independence. The reason the new Scottish Parliament contains a significant number of unionist MSPs is not – as certain Alba apologists claim, because of voting SNP 1 & 2, it’s because a significant number of people in Scotland voted for them. It really is that simple. Those people who still back anti-independence parties need to be wooed and persuaded. There needs to be a forum for those of us who seek to articulate arguments that can cut through to them.

Someone needs to make the arguments that will reassure and persuade the soft noes and undecideds – that was, and shall continue to be – the focus of this blog. I do not believe the conspiracy theorists who claim that Nicola Sturgeon doesn’t really want another referendum. There will be another referendum within the term of this new Parliament. The job of this blog is to help to ensure that we win independence at that referendum when it inevitably occurs. Nicola Sturgeon has already told the media that she will go ahead with legislation for a second referendum and Boris Johnson will have to go the Supreme Court if he wants to stop her.

However I cannot keep going as I did before. Instead of trying to blog every day, the frequency of new posts will have to be significantly reduced. In the months ahead I intend to aim for two posts per week instead of trying to post a new piece every day. That’s as much as my health will allow.

Even when covid restrictions are fully lifted, I will no longer be doing any public speaking events. There are two main reasons for this, firstly, I can’t drive any more, so getting to venues is now a lot harder. Equally my walking is still very restricted and I cannot stand for any length of time. Before I can drive again I need a specialised assessment which my occupational therapist has referred me for, although there is a long waiting list and it will be many months before I am seen and assessed. However more importantly I no longer have the strength or the stamina for standing in front of a crowd of people for an hour or more and effectively performing.

For some time I’ve been working on a series of pieces each of which tackle some of the main topics which are likely to be an issue in the independence campaign – issues like the border, currency, EU membership, and many others. Work on these was disrupted due to the stroke but over the coming weeks I’ll be revising them, bringing them up to date and publishing them on this blog.

Now let’s get back to the job of making the case for independence, of healing our movement and winning back Scotland’s rightful place among the independent nations of the world.

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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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 : https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/scottish-independence-cost/ 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:
http://web.archive.org/web/20210330073808/https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/scottish-independence-cost/

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: https://www.facebook.com/102993537719689/posts/470157474336625/

A direct link to the crowdfunding page is here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-manny-singh-win-his-legal-battles

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 https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/columnists/alex-salmond-has-plunged-a-stake-into-the-heart-of-scottish-democracy-brian-monteith-3181513 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.

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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