Not feeling well

Hi everyone,

I’m really sorry but I’m not going to be able to get the blog done today and maybe tomorrow. Just after sitting down to start a piece this morning I developed a high temperature and a severely upset stomach. I had to get to bed whereupon I just passed out.

My other half Peter was diagnosed with viral gastro enteritis yesterday and now I seem to have picked it up too. I’m feeling very rough just now. Because Peter had a temperature the doctor wanted him to go for a covid test but thankfully it came back negative. He’s feeling a bit better today so hopefully I will get over this by the weekend, then I can get back to the blog.

Once again, sorry everyone.

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The Tory assault on devolution intensifies

While sections of the independence movement get on with the serious business of self-righteously and noisily condemning other sections of the independence movement for the terrible crime of having a different opinion about certain issues which are not directly related to independence. The Tories are quietly getting on with their far more serious business of hollowing out the devolution settlement from within and undermining the powers of the Scottish Parliament. And while we are on the topic of divisions within the independence movement, make no mistake at all, the Conservatives will leap at the opportunity to use the Salmond-Sturgeon dispute as an excuse to undermine the powers of the Scottish Parliament even further. We stoke the fires of division at our peril.

Today the Conservative government at Westminster has announced plans to spend millions of pounds across Scotland in direct partnership with local authorities, completely by-passing Holyrood. The funding will be allocated by Westminster and will not require the approval of Holyrood. The money is part of the £4 billion set aside by Chancellor Rishi Sunak for “levelling up the country.” This mone had until now been spent only in England, but today’s announcement from the British government confirms that the scheme is to be extended to Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland.

Westminster intends to grant the cash for use on capital projects such as transport and infrastructure, culture and heritage schemes despite the fact that these are competencies which come within the remit of the devolved Parliament. This has been enabled by a provision in the Conservatives’ controversial UK Internal Market Bill and represents confirmation that Gove, Johnson and the Tories intend to use Brexit as an excuse to undermine the devolution settlement and further centralise the already over-centralised British state.

You can be sure that SNP controlled local authorities will be put to the back of the queue and that the Conservatives will target the funding in a nakedly party political way in an attempt to undermine their opponents, which in Scotland means that they will spend it in ways which will by-pass SNP controlled local authorities. This is precisely how the Conservatives have already used the money in England. In Scotland it’s going to be used to weaken the independence movement and to bolster the anti- independence cause. This is a clear example of the Conservatives using public money for nakedly political purposes. Colour us all surprised eh?

In September 2019 the BBC reported that UK govt spending supposedly aimed at “levelling up so called left behind towns in England was disproportionately being spent in Conservative held constituencies and in Labour-Conservative marginals.

The English expenditure which was supposed to deliver an increase in school funding in “left-behind” towns was in fact used to boost the electoral prospects of local Conservatives. However an analysis of the expenditure carried out by the Education Policy Institute found that nine out of the top ten beneficiaries in terms of an increase per pupil in cash were in Tory held constituencies. Of the 36 constituencies which received no benefit at all from the scheme all but four were held by Labour despite the fact that they generally had a higher level of base funding due to greater pupil need and greater social deprivation. Quoted by the BBC, Natalie Perera of the Education Policy Institute said that “In this context, [the extra funding] means bringing generally more affluent schools up to the same level of funding as more disadvantaged schools.” She added that “it was “reasonable to say that the latest announcement targets more funding to more affluent and generally more Conservative areas”.

In Scotland there is the additional dimension of devolution and Conservative attempts to weaken and undermine the Scottish parliament and the devolution settlement. As is clear from their behaviour in England, the Conservatives treat this public money, not as a mechanism for improving public services, but rather as a tool for promoting a nakedly party political agenda.

This move comes after the UK governmen cut Scotland’s capital budget at the Spending Review by 5% . In other words the British government has slashed the funding which was under the control of the Scottish government and replaced it with a smaller block of funding which is directly under the control of Johnson and the Tories. This will then be presented to the Scottish public by our anti independence media as Scotland being done a favour by a munificent British state when in fact it represents both a power grab and a cash grab which has an immediate negative impact on Scotland’s ability to determine its own spending priorities. No doubt we can now look forward to a tranche of this British government money being spent on a feasibility study for Boris Johnson’s fantasy proposal for a fixed link between Scotland and Northern Ireland. Whatever capital projects it ends up being spent on, you can be quite certain that they will have British flags plastered all over them. This is all really just another exercise in Conservative flag fetishism. Because the real reason that more and more people in Scotland want independence is because we’re not subjected to enough union jackery. Or rather, union jack-offery.

It is the UK Government, and not the Scottish Government, which will decide where this money is to be spent and what it is to be spent on. So despite the fact that Scotland has repeatedly rejected the Conservatives at the ballot box, the Conservatives are still taking it upon themselves to dictate to Scotland how public money is to be spent on devolved competencies. The cash will then be loaded onto the expenditure column in the GERS statistics and will be used as yet more “evidence” that Scotland would be unable to fund itself.

It’s a signal warning that the independence movement must not take its eye off the ball. While we bicker amongst ourselves, the Conservatives are not letting up in their assault on the devolution settlement and on Scottish democracy itself. It is manifestly not the case that, as some supposedly pro-independence campaigners who focus all their attention and energy on attacking Nicola Sturgeon sniffily assert, that “We all know already that the Tories are vile”. We live in a country where the majority of the media continues to excuse and enable the Conservatives, and as the Holyrood elections approach, they are going to double down on their efforts to excuse and enable the Tories. That makes it all the more important that we do not cease in our efforts to talk about and explain the real threat to Scotland. The duplicitous and devious attempts of the Conservatives to grab power for themselves and to remove themselves from the ability of the people of Scotland to hold them to account.

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What would Alex do?

The documentation about the botched investigation into him that Alex Salmond wanted to be put in the public domain has now been released, Alex believes that it proves there was a conspiracy against him orchestrated by senior figures in the SNP who are close to Nicola Sturgeon. The First Minister is due to put her side of the story to the Holyrood Committee examining the affair next week. She strongly denies that there was any conspiracy aiming to, in the words of some of Alex’s online supporters, “put an innocent man in jail.”

Already some of Alex Salmond’s supporters are taking to social media to declare that because of the treatment of the former first Minister they will not be voting SNP in the May elections. I believe that this is premature, and an attempt to prejudge what Alex would himself advise his supporters to do. Alex Salmond has not yet made any public statement about how he would prefer his supporters to vote in May, and until such time as he does I believe that his supporters should err on the side of caution and not do anything which may prove prejudicial to the cause and the party to which Alex Salmond has devoted his political career.

This means, that until such time as Alex Salmond himself says something to the contrary, we must operate on the assumption that he would want his supporters to vote SNP in May. Alex Salmond loves the SNP, his beef is with the party’s current leader and those close to her, not with the party as a whole. Alex Salmond knows that the SNP is a whole lot bigger than him, and a whole lot bigger than Nicola Sturgeon. He does not want to bring the entire SNP down just before a crucial election which could prove to hold the key to independence because he has a dispute with its current leader, all the more so because this would be severely prejudicial to any hopes he might harbour of returning to a senior role within the party should the present leadership stand down. You don’t burn down a house that you think you might move into.

Just as Alex Salmond understands that the SNP is bigger than him and bigger than Nicola Sturgeon, he also understands that the cause of independence is bigger than all three. He would not want his supporters to do anything which might damage Scotland’s prospects of independence and play into the hands of the British nationalists. Unlike some of his more strident supporters on social media, Alex Salmond is an expert political strategist and tactician. He instinctively understands the power of a political narrative and knows that if the SNP fail to do well in May the dominant political narrative will be that Scotland doesn’t want independence, and the current momentum will be lost. If his supporters turn their backs on the SNP in the mistaken belief that they are supporting him, there is a very real risk that he will go down in history not as the godfather of Scottish independence, but as the man who thwarted it. That is most certainly not what he wants.

So if you do consider yourself a supporter of Alex Salmond, at least do the man the courtesy of speaking for himself before you take to social media and announce in an outrage that you are not going to vote SNP. Because if the time comes when Alex Salmond advises his supporters not to vote SNP 1 and 2 in May, it will only be because he has an alternative plan which will further the cause of independence and which won’t play into the hands of the Tories or the other British nationalist parties. Allow him to speak for himself, and don’t let your anger and outrage speak for him. I have no doubt that he will make his views clear soon enough. Until he does don’t pre-empt him and in your anger risk damaging Alex Salmond’s interests and those of Scottish independence.

Please note that there will not be a blog post tomorrow as I have to travel to Glasgow for a hospital appointment.

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The disunion unit

All is not well with the British government’s campaign to fend off Scottish independence. After just two weeks, Oliver Lewis, formerly of the Vote Leave Campaign, has resigned from his post as the chief of Boris Alexander de Pfeffel Johnson’s much heralded “Union Unit”. They called it that because the more accurate title, “The Suppressing Scottish democracy Unit ” would have proven too hard a sell for the May elections, even for the BBC, no matter how many photies of Ruth Davidson grinning with a gutted fish they tried to tart their election leaflets up with. This is Not least because after banging on about fisheries for months, the Scottish Tories are now very keen not to remind anyone at all about fishing.

The Union Unit is the government office which was supposed to stick it to those pesky nats and formulate a convincing and plausible case for this so-called union and make the people of Scotland realise that after all, we’d be much better off if we consented to Brexit and to being governed by the afore-mentioned de Pfeffel Johnson and his miserable band of corporate cronyists.

This was always going to be a tough gig. All the way through the 2014 we waited in vain for the constantly promised positive case for the union, and that was at a time when the UK wasn’t actually the pariah of Europe and led by a man who rivals Donald Trump in his propensity for lying , and who is, moeover, so out of touch with Scottish public opinion and culture that he makes Andrew Bowie MP seem like an expert on fish suppers. Unfortunately however the union unit has been anything but united. It has been spending more time and energy fighting with itself than the habitues of Scottish Twitter.

Lewis took over the position from the former Scottish Conservative MP Luke Graham, who was reportedly sacked following a “brutal row” within Downing Street about his role, amidst rumours that his working relationships with other advisors and officials had broken down. One One Scottish Tory, speaking anonymously to the press was reported as saying: “Luke was the only one who gets Scotland in there, it’s a big shame he’s gone and speaks to their total lack of a strategy on how to deal with the SNP.”

Whatever his shortcomings, Luke Graham was at least a Scottish MP and had some first hand experience of Scottish politics. The same could not be said of his replacement Oliver Lewis, whose sole expertise in matters Caledonian appeared to be that he’d once seen Scotland on the BBC weather map. But then, as the former chief of the Vote Leave campaign, Lewis does have abundant experience of selling the public a self-harming proposition based upon nothing more than British nationalistic bull-shittery and flag waving, so in that crucial sense he’s a perfect fit for a lead role in persuading the people of Scotland that it’s in their interests to remain a subordinate part of Johnson’s Brexit dystopia.

Of course, not everyone shares the view that Johnson is hopelessly ignorant of Scottish concerns. According to the UK Government’s Governor General, Alister Jack, Johnson is an “absolute asset ” to the cause of the Union and to the Conservative party in Scotland. There are however many people in Scotland, even outwith the Conservative party, who could have agreed with Jack’s assessment that Johnson was an “absolute asset” provided he had left off the last two letters.

As it turned out, Oliver Lewis lasted just two weeks in his new post before he too walked out amidst reports of arguments and recriminations within Downing Street’s disunion unit. According to the Times, Lewis was accused of briefing against Michael Gove and reportedly received a “bollocking” from an angry Prime Minister. For a department which is supposed to be devoted to persuading Scotland that we’re better together they can’t even manage to persuade one another that they’re better together with each other. Still, at least Oliver now has a better insight into how the great majority in Scotland is feeling. We all think that Michael Gove is insufferable too.

Speaking on Channel 4 News over the weekend, Johnson’s biographer Andrew Gimson said that the departure of Oliver Lewis showed that Johnson hasn’t made up his mind about how to deal with the growing support in Scotland for independence and for another independence referendum. It proves that there is no strategy and there is no plan. Opponents of independence are flailing around blindly. It shows that far from having resolved to keep saying no to another independence referendum in perpetuity, Johnson simply has no idea how he’s going to respond to a victory for the pro-independence parties in the Holyrood election in May. He’s hoping that the independence movement and demand for independence will just go away, and to be fair he’s getting some support for that hope from the self-destructive in-fighting which is consuming certain sections of the independence movement and the SNP on social media. Right now the biggest threat to independence doesn’t come from the Tories, it comes from some loud voices within the independence movement.

But here’s the thing. Irrespective of your views on the various issues which are currently dividing the movement and the SNP, there is no looming deadline for resolving them. There is however a looming deadline for winning this crucial Holyrood election. It’s only a matter of weeks away now. If the SNP does not do well in this election, no one is going to say that it’s because the indy movement wasn’t happy with the lack of a plan B, no one is going to say that it’s because Nicola Sturgeon isn’t assertive enough in pursuing independence. No one is going to point to the Salmond-Sturgeon affair.

The only narrative in the media will be that Scotland doesn’t want another independence referendum, and that will become the new political reality in Scotland. It’s fine if, like some on social media, you say that you’re not going to vote SNP in May but you will vote for independence when there is a referendum, but the simple fact of the matter is that if you don’t vote SNP in May then you’re making it less likely that there is going to be another referendum. That’s the political reality. No one is telling you to wheesht for indy, you can still pursue your issues with the SNP after May’s election. Then we can argue about a Plan B from a position of strength. This is not a question of wheesht for indy. It’s a question of getting real. Let’s win this election first. That’s the overriding priority.

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Normal blogging service is (about to be) resumed

Well it took longer than we had originally  thought, but we are now in our new house in South Ayrshire. There was a problem with the title deeds for our new place which our solicitor had to sort out before the sale could be finalised, and as a result we had to spend an extra week in a temporary flat where we had no internet connection. We finally got into the new place on Friday and spent the weekend moving packing cases about and wondering where we’d put the kettle and the bedding and everything else that we are going to need in the short term.

Internet has now been reconnected but until we can get some more hubs to extend it reliably throughout the house it’s patchy and slow. All going well that will be sorted out over the coming weekend. So, fingers crossed normal blogging service will be resumed next week. This week we are concentrating on getting our new home comfortable and habitable until the renovation work we want can be done and then we can get the place decorated. However it’s already a huge relief to be able to get in the front door without having to shift my reluctant limbs up two flights of concrete stairs in a freezing close. It’s also great to be able to have a shower which I can get in and out of easily. Once we get the planned renovation work done I will have a bathroom that’s fully suited to my reduced mobility.

It’s also wonderful to have a garden, so when the weather improves we will have a nice wee bit of outdoor space to sit in. I’ve identified a nice wee south facing spot in the new garden where we plan to bury Ginger’s ashes – so he’ll spend eternity in a nice sunny place where he will always be with his daddy. He’d have wanted that.

Thank you to all regular, and occasional, readers for your patience during my enforced absence. Normal ranting service will be resumed on Monday. This will be a crucial year for Scottish independence, and you can be certain that I am not going to miss it. It’s great to be here in South Ayrshire, and both Peter and I know that we are going to be very happy here.

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The big move

The big move is finally happening. On Friday 29 January we need to vacate this flat. For various reasons I won’t bore you with we probably won’t get access to the new house in South Ayrshire until the following week. In the interim all our stuff will be going into storage and Peter and I are going to stay in a friend’s flat near Balloch until we get access to the new place.

Right now we need to finish packing and everything here in the flat is pretty chaotic as you might imagine, all the more so since I am still quite far from operating on all cylinders. I am currently at that stage in the house moving process when I remember why it is that every time I move house I swear that I’m never going to do it again.

When we do get into the new place we will have to unpack and get ourselves settled and it is likely to take a wee while until we can get broadband connected.

Given everything that’s going on there won’t be any updates to the blog for the next couple of weeks. But you can rest assured that normal blogging service will be resumed as soon as possible. I have no doubt that in the meantime you’re all more than capable of keeping yourselves amused in the comments section. However please don’t indulge in petty name calling,don’t subject others you disagree with to personal insults, and always remember the golden rule of commenting on this blog – if your comment is not going to help persuade a soft no voter or an undecided of the need for Scottish independence, then please think again about whether you really need to make it.

I’ll be back in a few weeks, coming to you from South Ayrshire!

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The Settled Will

By the time that you get to nineteen opinion polls in a row, over the course of more than a year from several different polling companies, all of which have shown a lead for a vote for independence in a referendum, it becomes legitimate to posit that a desire for independence is now the settled will of the people of Scotland.

It’s certainly true that at 51% for yes, the most recent poll does not show as commanding a lead for independence as some previous polls, which have put support for independence as high as 58%, but this categorically does not mean that support for independence has gone into decline. Opinion polls work, insofar as they do work, because questions are asked of a sample of people who are believed to be representative of the wider population. However different polling companies have different strategies for arriving at a representative sample and may have somewhat different notions of what constitutes a representative sample. A consequence of this is that you cannot meaningfully compare the results of a poll from one company with polling results from a different company, because you’re not comparing like with like.

This most recent poll was carried out by the Survation company. Polls from Survation have been described as being less “Yes-friendly” than polls from other companies in that the methodology used by Survation in order to determine how representative its samples are appears not to favour any factors which could potentially boost a yes vote, but which doesn’t seem to rule out with the same vigour factors which potentially boost a no vote. It is very significant then that support for yes is still in the lead even in polls from companies which are not “Yes-friendly”. This increases confidence that the past slew of polls showing a majority for yes do indeed reflect a real shift in Scottish public opinion and despite the howls of protest on social media from British nationalists who complain that they and their pals in the ludge weren’t asked, it’s now safe to say that a majority of people in Scotland would vote yes to independence in a future referendum. Scotland is now a pro-independence nation in a way that it was not in 2014 or indeed at any point in its recent history. That is a shift of historic proportions and one which will be hugely significant for the future of this country.

This seismic shift in Scottish attitudes has not gone entirely unnoticed south of the border, although it’s safe to say that the dominant view in England is a denial that the union between Scotland and England is now entering its terminal phase. This week former Conservative chancellor George Osborne penned an opinion column in the Standard newspaper, advising Boris Johnson to deny Scottish democracy in order to fend off independence. It was a piece which was shocking in its naked contempt for the democratic rights of the people of Scotland, and which dripped the arrogant – colonialist – mindset of the Conservative establishment where Scotland is concerned. It is telling that George Osborne regards Scotland as a territory to be possessed and not as a society to be engaged with. At no point in his article did he display the slightest concern that Scottish opinion as expressed through the ballot box is something that needs to be taken into account.

Osborne discusses Scottish independence purely in terms of how it would affect the pretensions of England to great power status, saying, ” [Scotland’s] departure would represent the end of the UK. The rest of the world would instantly see that we were no longer a front-rank power, or even in the 2nd row.” For this reason he tells Johnson to refuse any call for another independence referendum, In his eyes, it is perfectly acceptable to sacrifice Scottish democracy on the altar of English exceptionalism. Essentially, George Osborne has admitted that England has no sense of itself and needs Scotland more than Scotland needs it.

Osborne’s advice to Johnson is that the latter must refuse to allow another independence referendum. Osborne appears confident that any referendum without a section 30 order would be illegal – although as more informed observers know, that’s a matter without a definitive legal ruling. He does not mention the unquestionably legal possibility of a plebiscite election and arrogantly suggests that any independence referendum without a section 30 order could be crushed in the same way that Madrid suppressed the Catalan referendum, with police brutality and prison sentences. Where this falls down however is in Osborne’s English exceptionalist idea that the international community would react in the same way as it did to the events in Catalonia. Sadly for him there is no guarantee of that.

The fundamental difference is that the Spanish Constitution explicitly rules out any independence referendum in any part of the territory of the Spanish state. However the British state has already conceded that Scotland has a right to self-determination and moreover via the Edinburgh Agreement has established a legal and constitutional pathway for this to be realised. Given that, if Scotland were to replicate the political conditions which led to the first referendum, only for a referendum to be refused by Westminster solely on the basis that the British government feared that it was going to lose in a democratic ballot, the international community may very well take a different view than it did to the Catalan vote and be sympathetic to a Scottish government which sought to take an alternative route to allowing the people of Scotland a democratic expression of their will. This is all the more likely since the UK is no longer a member of the EU. Brussels no longer has a vested interest in bolstering the pretensions of the British state or in rewarding Johnson’s anti-democratic instincts.

The recent poll from Scot Goes Pop also tells us that people in Scotland are not content to roll over and accept a Johnson veto on their democratic will. A full 63% support some sort of plan B should Johnson refuse a section 30 order and remain intransigent.

For my own part, I prefer going for a plebiscite election after the refusal of a section 30 order because it would be harder for the anti-independence parties to boycott it and because it is unquestionably entirely lawful and constitutional. This certainly does not mean waiting five years until the 2026 elections as there are ways and means of precipitating an earlier vote. It would certainly be possible to have a plebiscite election later this year.

The Scottish government would be perfectly justified in bringing about such an early election if the British government was undemocratic in blocking the Scottish Government from implementing the most important policy on which it had been elected. This is a plebiscite election which would have an extremely good chance of receiving support from the international community,and would certainly have majority support amongst the Scottish population- even amongst many who are not currently in favour of independence. The anti-independence parties would no longer be able to argue that Scotland is a partner in a union as the British Prime Minister will have demonstrated that Scottish democracy has been vetoed by a Prime Minister and a party that Scotland didn’t vote for and whose anti-referendum message had just been rejected at the ballot box. The mere act of a Johnson denial of a referendum after the electorate has just clearly voted for having one will itself create an upswelling of anger and revulsion which will only boost support for independence even further.

The same cannot be said of any attempt to make this May’s election an effective plebiscite on independence, which is why I prefer to wait a few months longer when our position will be immeasurably stronger and that of our opponents far weaker. The issue here is not getting a vote on independence – that is most assuredly going to happen, the issue is winning it and ensuring that the result is recognised by the international community.

However I suspect it is more likely that the Scottish government will first test the lawfulness of a consultative referendum under the auspices of Holyrood and without a section 30 order in the courts. The outrage to Scottish public opinion and the destruction of the traditional understanding of Scottish unionism that Johnson’s refusal of a section 30 order will create will most likely negate any effect of a Conservative boycott and render it meaningless. By that time support for independence will most certainly be the settled will of the people of Scotland and even the most recalcitrant British nationalist on social media will have no choice but to accept it.

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Stroke recovery update

I thought it was about time that I gave everyone an update on how my recovery is going since the stroke. It’s now been four months since the stroke, and although I’m still experiencing significant issues, I’m definitely doing much better than I could have hoped just a few weeks ago.

I no longer use the walking stick at all inside the house, but still rely on it when venturing outdoors – not that we are able to do that much at the moment. Even with the stick I can only manage very limited distances have to use the wheelchair for anything further -with the stick I could manage to get to the corner of my street – perhaps 100 yards or so. I had intended to attempt to walk to the corner while using the stick, and to do that daily and try to get a little bit further every day, in order to build up my strength and stamina, but the recent icy weather put paid to that notion until today.

=Just back from some walking practice and I did better than I thought, and was able to get down the stairs by myself – I only needed Peter’s help to hold the walking stick while I held onto the handrail. Then I managed to walk to the corner and back holding the walking stick in my hand, without actually using it, although I could feel my left leg getting very tired so that was as far as seemed prudent to push things for the time being. Next time I’ll try to get a few metres further. Then going up the close stairs, from the first floor landing I held the walking stick in my left hand. So I am getting very close to the point of being able to get up and down stairs without needing assistance. That’s a huge improvement.

Mentally I feel I’m doing a lot better. I’m not as forgetful as I was and friends I chat with regularly on the phone say that I am no longer repeating myself, no longer repeating myself, Which I was doing a lot in the weeks after being released from hospital.

In other little victories – I can now manage to flick the light switch and flush the toilet using my left hand, or at least I can nine times out of ten – that’s a massive improvement, just a couple of weeks ago it was no times out of ten. My left leg and hand and arm are still very weak. It’s only within the past few days that I’ve had enough strength in my fingers to flick a light switch, so things are definitely going in the right direction. It’s important to keep working on it. I also have to keep doing stretching exercises as in the weeks and months after a stroke the tendons tend to shrink due to a lack of normal muscle use. It makes me a bit stiff and sore, but it’s important to persevere with the exercises even though they can be uncomfortable. I’m taking some CBD paste, with a bit of chocolate to disguise the taste, at bedtime, and that’s definitely helping me get a decent night’s sleep.

I have even started to try and involve my left hand in typing, It’s slow and laborious, the movement in my left hand is pretty gross and uncoordinated. However the important thing is that there is useful movement. The goal over the next weeks and months will be to refine it, work on fine motor control and to build up strength and stamina.

I don’t really like to focus on the negative but one of the biggest problems with using my left hand is that I have very little feeling in it. So when attempting to pick something up I can’t actually feel if I have a grasp of it or not. Apparently movement recovers before sensation, so feeling might well return to my fingers and hand. One tip suggested by the physiotherapist was to use something with a coarse texture to help reawaken the nerves, so I’ve been rubbing my fingertips with a nail brush. When I do that I am aware of a tickling sensation in the palm of my hand, so something is definitely happening, even though the nerve signals are still a bit messed up.

Another serious issue is fatigue. I’m told that for a large number of stroke survivors this is one of the most debilitating symptoms they face. That’s certainly my experience too. I find I have very limited energy and need to pace myself. As far as the blog is concerned that means that I don’t have the strength and energy to keep on top of comments moderation – so I am pleading with you all to please refrain from name-calling and insulting one another, and above all, ask yourself before commenting how your words will be seen by someone who is yet to be convinced of the case for independence. If what you’re about to post won’t help to persuade them that Scotland must become independent – then perhaps think twice about commenting at all. Thank you all for your co-operation. Someone suggested taking maca root capsules (sometimes called Peruvian ginseng) for the fatigue I’ve started doing that but it’s too early to say whether it’s having an effect. However I am told that the fatigue will eventually resolve itself.

Overall I’m feeling pretty positive. It helps to focus on what you can do rather on what you can’t, and to keep pushing at the limits of your abilities – although that’s not always an easy balance to strike. But that’s the road to recovery. It’s not going to happen by magic, and it’s certainly not going to happen if I sit about moping and feeling sorry for myself. There’s still a long road to travel, but considering it’s only four months since the stroke, I’m now in a far better place than I could possibly have hoped for just a few months ago when I was lying semi-paralysed in a hospital bed, not knowing if I’d ever be able to walk or work again.

There’s so much to look forward to. We have a provisional moving date of 29 January, and then Peter and I start a whole new chapter of our lives in South Ayrshire. And of course we have crucial elections and the prospect of an increasingly self-confident Scotland that is moving towards independence. I am determined to focus on my recovery so I can play as full a role as possible in helping to make that happen – and getting strong enough so that I can get another dug. No dug can ever replace Ginger of course, but life is always better with a dog in it.

Once again I’d like to thank all the regular readers of the blog and The National column for all your love and support. You got me through some very bleak and dark days and out the other side. You’re all amazing. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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Yes times eighteen

We’ve had yet another opinion poll showing a substantial majority for Yes. Today’s poll for the Scotsman, carried out by Savanta ComRes, has Yes on 57% and no on 43%. When the don’t knows and undecideds are removed, there’s still a majority for independence, Yes is on 51%, No is on a mere 38 %, and don’t knows/ undecideds on 10%. The headline figure of 57% for yes is a 1% drop on the 58% recorded for yes in the previous poll  for the Scotsman by the same polling company , however this is not statistically significant. Polls are usually carried out with a margin of error of 3% and a confidence level of 95%. What this means is that that in a poll which reports, say 50% ,for yes the true value for yes is +/-3% around 50%, so the true value for yes support in the population would be in the range between 47% and 53%. the confidence level of 95% means that if the poll was repeated, then 19 times out of 20, we’d see the same result. One poll out of twenty is likely to be a so-called rogue poll, which gives a result outwith the usual 3% margin of error and which is unlikely to be a true representation of public opinion.

So the previous poll for the Scotsman which returned 58% for yes was really reporting a value for yes between 55% and 61%. Today’s result of 57% is comfortably within that range and therefore by itself the apparent drop of 1% is not statistically significant. It most certainly does not mean that support for independence has decreased.

There are two important lessons to be drawn from today’s poll. The first is that this poll and the previous poll have both put Yes ahead of No by more than the margin of error and that even when the margin of error of 3% is taken into account, No is still polling below 50%. This means that we can be confident that independence really does enjoy majority support amongst the wider population. This confidence is reinforced by the fact that we have now had 18 polls in a row placing yes in the lead. That run of consistent results means that it is implausible that we are dealing with a rogue poll with today’s poll, as both it and all the previous 17 would have had to be rogue polls too. This is statistically highly unlikely. Yet this is the phantom straw which many British nationalists on social media are clutching at.

Yet others are refusing to accept the results, dismissing them as coming from “Angus Robertson’s polling company,” It seems that in the imaginations of British nationalists in Scotland, Angus Robertson owns and personally controls every polling company whose polls produce a result that they don’t like. In fact today’s poll was carried out by a company, Savanta ComRes, which has no connection to the former Westminster leader of the SNP. Moreover the poll was commissioned by the notoriously anti-independence Scotsman newspaper. It should be noted however that any polling company which consistently and deliberately produced poll results skewed to reflect the political opinions of one of its shareholders is a polling company which would be kicked out of the British polling Council and would not remain in business much longer.

Angus is a director of Progress Scotland, an organisation which commissions polls, but which doesn’t actually carry out the polling itself, the polling itself is undertaken by the Survation company, a member of the British Polling Council.

Today’s poll is a disaster for the Scottish Tories. It is the first poll carried out in Scotland since The Johnson Government’s Brexit deal, yet far from giving the Conservatives a boost in Scotland, this poll shows that the party of British nationalism is haemorrhaging support. The Tories are down 1% in the constituency vote and down a whopping 4% in the list vote – a figure which is greater than the standard margin of error. the SNP is on 53% in the constituency vote, down 2% on the previous poll and 44% in the list vote, up 2% on the previous poll. Translated into seats, this would give the SNP 71 MSPs, a clear majority, The Conservatives would lose 14 of their existing 31 seats and be left with just 17, being pushed out of second place in terms of seat numbers by Labour, which is projected to lose only three of its current total of 24 to be left with 21. So even though Labour would regain its place as Holyrood’s second largest party, this doesn’t exactly represent a boost in the party’s fortunes. a large segment of Labour’s remaing support is in favour of independence and is quite likely to defect to the SNP if Labour is foolish enough to double down on opposition to independence and support for Brexit. Meanwhile The Greens are projected to end up with 11 MSPs, meaning that there will be an overwhelming pro-independence majority in the next Scottish parliament with 82 seats in the 129 seat chamber being held by pro-independence MSPs.

The other information we can glean from this and other recent polls is that neither the new fringe independence parties nor George Galloway’s latest anti-independence vanity project are picking up sufficient support to even register in the polls. Equally it now seems certain that the great majority of people will not be swayed in their voting intentions by the twists and turns of the Salmond/Sturgeon saga, no matter how consumed by it some sites or sections of the media appear to be.

Of course this will do nothing to quieten the woe woe and thrice woe faction, who will just keep asking what use it is voting SNP if Johnson just keeps saying no to a section 30 order. However, that’s the wrong question to ask.

The real question to ask is what happens if the SNP does not do well in May’s election. The narrative in the media will not be that the SNP did poorly because the independence movement thought Nicola Sturgeon wasn’t sufficently aggressive in her pursuit of independence. It won’t be because some independence supporters were unhappy with her role in the Salmond affair. It won’t be that the SNP failed to secure a majority because there was no plan B for achieving independence. It most certainly will not be because the independence movement didn’t trust Nicola Sturgeon to deliver on a referendum. All we will hear from the media and the anti-independence parties will be that the voters of Scotland don’t really want independence, and that is the narrative that will become entrenched.

Politics is not primarily about facts, it’s about stories. It’s about who can tell the most compelling story. If politics was really about facts, Brexit would never have happened and Donald Trump would still be just a reality TV star. Politics is not about facts, it’s about establishing a dominant narrative. It’s about stories. If the SNP do poorly no one will care about your reasons for not supporting them, all we will hear is that Scotland doesn’t want independence. That might not be fair, but that’s what will happen.

Following May’s election, the dominant narrative we must establish is that Scotland wants independence. Everything else flows from that. The only way this can be achieved is by ensuring that the main pro-independence party does very well, and the Conservatives and Labour do poorly. The polls strongly suggest that we are on course to do just that.

I’ve recently been having severe issues with post-stroke fatigue.  According to my physiotherapist it’s the most debilitating effect of a stroke, experienced by some 40% of stroke survivors.  It means I just don’t have the energy to post a new piece every day, or to keep on top of the comments when (a small minority) don’t behave.  So please, when commenting, try to think about that 10% of don’t knows and undecideds. If your comment won’t help to bring them to supporting independence, then maybe think twice about posting it and refrain from commenting at all.

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British nationalist poutrage won’t stop Scottish democracy

The stench of British nationalist desperation is overwhelming. With seventeen opinion polls in a row showing a majority for independence, and equally consistent indications that the SNP is on course to trounce The Conservatives, Labour, and the LibDems in this year’s Scottish elections after promising to deliver another independence referendum,a referendum which the independence movement is highly likely to win, the parties of the British establishment and their allies have all but given up on making a case for the UK in Scotland and switched their efforts to attempts to suppress the democratic right of the people of Scotland to determine Scotland’s future for themselves.

We saw this over the weekend with Johnson’s shameless suggestion that there should not be another independence referendum until most people who voted in 2014 are dead. He notably refused to answer the question his outrageous suggestion raised, if a British Prime minister is going to block another independence referendum for decades to come irrespective of the democratic wishes of the people of Scotland as expressed through the ballot box, then what mechanism remains left to the people of Scotland which allows them to choose the form of government best suited to their needs.

Johnson has exposed as spurious the Conservative argument that the SNP said in 2014 that that year’s referendum was a once in a generation opportunity as a justification for his refusal because no politician who claims to be a democrat has the right to bind the hands of the electorate. It ceases to be a democracy hen the electorate is not permitted to change its mind, all the more so when it is are not permitted to change its mind in the light of changed circumstances, all the more so when those doing the refusing are the same politicians who created and caused the changed set of circumstances. In effect the Conservatives are arrogantly telling the people of Scotland that they are not going to allow us to hold them to account for taking Scotland out of the European Union and for their abject failure to honour the promises and commitments that allowed them and their Better Together allies to win the referendum in 2014.

Now that the ‘you can’t have another referendum’ line is patently failing to stem the rise in support for independence and is doing nothing to attract back remain supporting no voters who have defected to yes, indeed it shows every indication of being counterproductive and is only succeeding in alienating Scottish opinion even more, Some of the Bitter Together stalwarts are attempting a new tactic. No, they’re not actually suggesting that the British government should pay heed to what the people of Scotland are telling them, don’t be daft. They’re not about to break the habits of the past 300 years. In the British scheme of things it’s the people of Scotland who should obey British governments, not the other way about. Instead diehard British nationalists are airing the possibility of a different kind of voter suppression. Over the past few days, the arch unionist editor of The Times Scottish edition Magnus Llewellin, the equally arch British nationalist former Conservative MSP Brian Monteith – who now edits an online journal giving a platform to the swivel eyed lunacy end of right wing British nationalism in Scotland, have both called for May’s Scottish elections to be postponed, citing the Coronavirus epidemic as an excuse. They would of course have made the exact same call if the polls were showing the SNP to be on course for a historic defeat, and if you believe that you probably also believe that Alister Jack is a great champion for Scottish interests in the cabinet and that the Orange Order is primarily an organisation dedicated to traditional folk music.

The were joined in their faux concern for Scottish public health by Blair McDougall of Better Together who suggested that the Scottish elections should be delayed until next year. Of course neither Brian Monteith nor Magnus llewellin called for Brexit to be delayed because of the pandemic, and neither, as far as I am aware, are calling for the local elections in England, also due in May this year, to be postponed. It’s only Scottish democracy that British nationalism wants to be suspended, just when it appears that Scottish democracy is about to impose a historic defeat on British nationalism. You know, it’s almost as though they are terrified of the verdict of the people of Scotland on whether this UK we are actually living in lives up to the UK that we were promised we’d be living in if Scotland voted no in 2014, Oh wait, that’s exactly what it is. For Better Together it’s only the losing side in the 2014 which must be held to account. Not them, never them. After all the entire point of the Union for Westminster is that the people of Scotland should have no effective means of holding Westminster to account. Their poutrage (and no that’s not a typo ) would be deafening if the SNP was doing poorly in the polls and it was an SNP politician who had suggested postponing the election.

Of course there is no reason to delay the Scottish elections. It is entirely possible for campaigning and voting to be carried out online, via the media, and in a socially distanced way. In any event by May we can reasonably expect that all high risk people will have received the vaccine and vaccination efforts will have made significant headway into the rest of the population.

What we are seeing now are British nationalist parties and media outlets running scared of the democratic will of the people of Scotland now that they can see control slip out of their grasp. In doing so They are merely reinforcing the most powerful argument for Scottish independence, that it is only through independence and with a government directly responsible to the people of Scotland and no one else that Scotland can enjoy true democracy.

This is what a political panic attack looks like. By adopting tactics from the voter suppression playbook of the American Republicans, opponents of independence are merely showing their true anti-democratic credentials and making it all the more imperative for Scotland to escape their malignant political influence. And despite their transparently anti- democratic panicking, that’s exactly what Scotland is going to do in 2021.

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