Get off my f***ing backstop

vainhope

It’s now clear what Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson’s game plan is. He’s written a letter to the EU demanding the removal of the Irish backstop but offering no solutions to replace it, all so that he can blame the EU for a refusal to renegotiate the Brexit deal. Then either following a no-deal Brexit, or following the refusal of the Commons to allow a no-deal Brexit, he can call a General Election and blame everyone else for his mess. Just as he does in his personal life, so he does in his political life.

As expected, European leaders have dismissed the letter. It’s “Get off my fucking laptop,” but on a European wide scale – the response to the letter from Europe is the entirely predictable, “Get off my fucking backstop.” How else could they reply? The letter from the Prime Minister offered nothing new, just a series of petulant demands that the EU has already said repeatedly that it’s not going to allow. The EU described the letter as inaccurate and misleading. Which is a kind and diplomatic way of saying that Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson has been writing diplomatic letters with the same regard to truth as he displayed in his bendy bananas articles for The Telegraph.

The EU points out that the letter doesn’t provide any sort of framework which can realistically replace the backstop that the British Government is so determined not to accept. It does nothing to ensure the avoidance of a hard border on the island of Ireland. It does nothing to guarantee that any of the alternative arrangements – those arrangements which in any event the letter leaves unspecified – would be in place by the end of the transitional period set out in the leave deal agreed with Theresa May.

Some of the points made by Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson in the letter are breathtaking in their mendacity even by the standards of the man who invented the lie about bendy bananas. The backstop, he avers, is wrong because Northern Ireland will be subject to a regulatory regime that it didn’t vote for. That’s the Northern Ireland that voted against Brexit there. The Northern Ireland that’s getting a Brexit that only the DUP voted for.

He claims that it’s those who support a backstop, a mechanism for ensuring that the border on the island of Ireland remains open, who are the ones who are really risking the Peace Process. That’s because the DUP opposes the backstop and it would be imposing something on them that they don’t support. That would be that DUP which receives around 36% of Northern Irish votes. The votes of the 64% who don’t support the DUP don’t count. It’s very similar to the claims made below the line in the digital editions of newspapers by those who go on about how votes of the minority of Scots who supported Brexit need to be respected, and to hell with the majority who rejected it. Only this time as government policy. There’s hypocrisy, and there’s Tory party hypocrisy.

The desire of the British government to have mutually contradictory outcomes is all the fault of the EU. It’s Britain which is leaving the EU, but the resultant problems are all someone else’s fault, and every other country in Europe ought to make accommodations to the UK. Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson’s letter has only made a bad situation even worse, and made it even less likely that some sort of deal can be reached.

It should be obvious by now that this government is actively pursuing a no deal Brexit. The plan is to leave without a deal, and then to ensure that the public blame the EU and remain minded MPs and their parties for the resultant mess. Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson doesn’t care about job losses. He doesn’t care about the cost to the public purse. He doesn’t care about you or me. All he cares about is making sure that he wins a General Election so that he can stay in Number 10. He’s quite prepared to sacrifice the rest of us in order to do so. We are mere pawns in the game of his ambition.

There’s an article in the Guardian today by Poppy Trowbridge, a former advisor to the previous Chancellor Philip Hammond, which discusses the importance of remain minded Conservatives actively blocking no deal. The author urges them to put the interests of the UK before the interests of their careers. She doesn’t hold out much hope that they will. She’s reduced to expressing the hope that the best chance is for Ruth Davidson to speak out strongly against Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson’s plans. The entire piece reads like a desperate plea for a miracle from someone about to be executed.

Let’s get real here. If your best hope is Ruth Davidson standing up against the Conservative party, you’ve already lost. Ruth has spent the past few weeks in hiding, only popping out from underneath her shed in a forest in Aberdeenshire when the Labour party in Scotland went into meltdown. She was relieved by the distraction caused by branch office manager Randy Legstretcher getting slapped down by John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn. Following the accession to power of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson it took a lot to end up having a worse political time of it than Ruth Davidson, but the branch office managed it. And who said that you could never rely on the Labour party in Scotland?

When all you have left to go on is the wish that there are Conservatives with enough moral fibre to stand up against their own Prime Minister and put their careers on the line, you might as well pack up and go and live in Ruth Davidson’s bunker stockpiled with tins of baked beans. This is however where we are now in the UK. For decades the abiding theme in Scottish politics was the hope that the Labour party could save us from the Tories. We learned the hard way that was never going to happen. Now the very best that British politics can offer Scotland is the wish that the Tories will save us from themselves.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
Donate Button

If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.

The Great British whoopee cushion

safetyandsecurity
Politics, like every other specialism, has its suite of technical terminology. For example there’s the sovereignty of crown in parliament, briefing paper, acquis, reserved matter, universal sufferage. To these terms we can now add another, AAAAIIIIEEEEWWWW!!!! This is the screaming sound we’ll all make when Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson takes us all over the Brexit cliff. The scream will shortly be followed by a splat that lasts for many, many, months, the sound the UK’s balloon of grandiose imperial nostalgia trip crashing onto the rocks of reality, where it will deflate like a whoopee cushion farting out the blame for its demise upon the EU, remainer MPs for not believing in Britain, Scots for being ungrateful, foreigners, and the Irish.

Over the weekend, a leaked government report was published. Called Operation Yellowhammer, it details the government’s contingency planning for a no deal Brexit. It makes for sobering reading, it’s more dire than Ruth Davidson’s electoral prospects in a snap general election. The government itself believes that there is a very real possibility of food, fuel, and medicine shortages, at least three months of chaos at ports, thousands of job losses, and the potential for serious civil unrest. It also predicts the inevitable hard border with Ireland, and the consequent risk to the peace process which that development entails. There’s taking back control for you.

Despite this, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is pressing on regardless. It’s all just a minor bump in the road to the sunny uplands populated by unicorns and never-ending cherry cake. Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson and his pals with their strangulated vowels and expensively purchased sense of entitlement will be protected by their wealth, and are looking forward to reaping in even more profit from the disaster that they’re creating. They’ll be fine, and since they’re the only people whose needs matter in what passes for a democracy, there’s really nothing to worry about. Now tug that forelock and doff your cap, hairy legged Caledonian peasant, there are grouse to be beaten. Look, there’s that nice Ruth Davidson doing a photo op on the back of a castrated Highland bullock and telling you that you don’t want another referendum. Oh wait. No. She’s in hiding again. If you live in a forest in Aberdeenshire, check your shed.

Today Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is off to Cornwall, to visit a hospital full of people sick to the back teeth of Brexit. He’s got talks planned later this week with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, and he expressed the hope that they’d compromise. By which he meant cave in to everything that the UK wants, the unicorns, the neverending cake with the cherry, and all the rest. And if they don’t give Britain the exceptionalism which is rightfully the UK’s, then it will only prove that bloody foreigners can’t be trusted and it will all be their fault when Brexit goes wrong. Statesmanship these days is essentially an exercise in blame-shifting, like pass the parcel with a bag of dog shit that’s primed to explode.

This is what an actual bona fide constitutional crisis looks like. How’s that safety, security and stability of the UK working out for everyone? Meanwhile our MPs are still on holiday, despite calls from a cross party group of over 100 of them for Parliament to be recalled. Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is not disposed to listen to them. The less time Parliament is in session, the harder it will be for the remain majority in the Commons to block a no deal Brexit and the harder it will be for them to bring down his government before 31 October. Never has Halloween been so scary. This year it promises to unleash real demons.

The real problem here is that although Parliament can agree what it doesn’t want, it can’t agree on what it does want. It doesn’t want a no-deal Brexit, but can’t agree on a deal, can’t agree on revoking Article 50, and can’t agree on a solution to the Irish border question. It certainly can’t agree on who it wants to lead a caretaker government. The Lib Dems claim to be the party of remain, but the one thing that Jo Swinson wants less than Brexit is to see Jeremy Corbyn in Number 10, even if it’s only for a very limited period of time.

It has even been suggested that should the Commons succeed in passing a motion of no confidence in Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson’s government, that our PM with his fine line in racist stereotyping and lies about the EU might delay calling a General Election until after Brexit has happened. Although he’s obliged by law to call a General Election should the opposition fail to find majority support for a replacement government within two weeks of a successful motion of no confidence, the law is vague about when exactly that election needs to take place. Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson could simply barricade himself into Number 10 Downing Street and refuse to budge.

Is this the UK that Scotland was sold in 2014? This is a place of chaos, confusion. It’s a government led by ideologues who treat the people with contempt, where kindness is a weakness and compassion is a sin. Just this week we saw that there are calls from a right wing think tank to raise the retirement age to 75. This is a think tank led by Iain Duncan Smith. It calls itself the Centre for Social Justice, which is a bit like North Korea calling itself a democracy. It has the ear of the Brextremists who now lead the British government. We also learned that the Home Secretary Priti Patel plans to end freedom of movement on day one of Brexit, irrespective of the problems that this will create for travel, or even worse for EU citizens living in the UK or UK citizens living in EU states. All can be sacrificed on the altar of Brexit.

Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn made his big Brexit speech, promising vagueness. He said there would be another referendum on the EU, but didn’t say whether Labour would officially back remain. He didn’t rule out the Labour party remaining neutral in that referendum. He attacked Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson for his poshness and his wealth, for the way that he governs in the interests of the rich, but without a firm stance of his own on the most pressing issue of the day, he’s only likely to be steamrollered by a Brexit PM who blames the EU for all the UK’s ills and who knows how to deliver a clear message – even if that message is a lie.

Notably, Jeremy’s speech didn’t contain a single mention of Scotland. Our future is being decided by people for whom our existence scarcely registers. That’s the reality of being an equal partner in what we’re always told is the most successful union of nations that the world has ever seen. However there is one question that Brexit has answered clearly and resoundingly, and that is successful for whom? This most successful union of nations isn’t successful for Scotland. It’s successful for the Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnsons, the Etonians, the disaster capitalists, those who rip the social safety net away from the poor, the hard faced, and the cruel, the wealthy, and the well connected.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
Donate Button

If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.

Questions of identity

passports

For most people who support the idea of Scottish independence, it’s not about identity. Even for those who do prize a Scottish identity, that Scottish identity is not usually an ethnic one. Scottishness is a state of mind. It’s about where you live and how you choose to identify rather than being about where your parents or your ancestors came from. You could say that the difference between the civic nationalism espoused by the great majority of Scottish independence supporters and ethnic nationalism is that the first is about the future, the second is about the past.

Scottish identities are complex and multilayered. A minority of people in Scotland feel British first and Scottish second. A larger group feels Scottish first and British second. Another large group feels Scottish but not British at all. And there’s a segment which feels British but not Scottish. Scottish independence will not force an identity on anyone. Those who identify as British will still be British. Those who choose to travel on a British passport will still be free to do so.

This doesn’t mean that you will have to have a British passport following Scottish independence. It means that you can choose to retain one if indeed being British is important to your identity and how you define yourself. It’s just that independence will also give those of us who’d prefer a Scottish passport the option of getting one. Following Brexit, a Scottish passport will be far more likely to offer the freedom to move and settle anywhere in Europe than a British one will. You could even have both passports, should you choose. Most countries recognise dual citizenship, Scotland will be no different.

Back during the 2014 referendum campaign Magrit Curran – remember her? – went on the tellybox for an interview. The then Shadow Scotland Secretary bewailed how a Yes result in the referendum would make her children foreigners to her because they live in London. The interviewer nodded sympathetically. The trauma. The horror. But had the interviewer being doing their job properly, they would have remarked that Magrit was factually incorrect. Her kids would not become foreigners to her following Scottish independence.

In just about every country in the world, the offspring of citizens are entitled to citizenship through their parents. The children of a Scottish citizen, especially children who were themselves born in Scotland but who later moved to London, would naturally have the right to Scottish citizenship. Magrit’s weans wouldn’t be foreigners to her, because following independence they would like her have the right to claim Scottish citizenship.

But Magrit’s weans wouldn’t be foreigners to her because Magrit would also be entitled to retain British citizenship. Back in 2014, the British government confirmed that it had no plans to change its citizenship laws should Scotland become independent. Changing the laws about British citizenship following independence would mean stripping the likes of Michael Gove and Liam Fox of their British passports. Can you see them voting for that? No, neither can I.

What the current British citizenship laws mean is that everyone who is currently a UK citizen who lives in Scotland, or UK citizens who were born in Scotland but who now live elsewhere, would still have the right to British citizenship following an independence referendum. And so would their children. In order to qualify for British citizenship by descent, you need to have at least one parent who acquired British citizenship at birth by virtue of being born somewhere which was a part of the UK – at the time of their birth. Scottish independence does not change the reality that at the time of birth of every person born in Scotland who is alive today, we were born somewhere which was part of the UK.

Everyone who is alive in Scotland today and who is a British citizen would under current citizenship laws retain the right to British citizenship following independence. This is what happened when Ireland became independent. The children of everyone who was born in Scotland who is alive today, or who will be born right up until the date of Scottish independence, will likewise be entitled to British citizenship by virtue of the fact that they have a parent who was born a British citizen on British territory.

What this means in practical terms is that the first people who won’t have the right to British citizenship following Scottish independence will be the children of the first baby to be born in Scotland following the formal date of independence – assuming, that is, that that baby has a child with someone who isn’t a British citizen themselves. So we’re talking here about the children of people who haven’t been born yet, a generation which won’t be born for some 20 years following the date of Scottish independence.

But even if it were indeed the case that Magrit Curran’s weans would have a different passport from her – so what? Is your love for your children and your relationship with them predicated upon a piece of paper? Surely not. If you really would be estranged from your own kids simply because they have a different citizenship from you, that’s not an argument against independence, it’s an argument that you’re desperately in need of family therapy.

The new Scottish state will need to implement a citizenship law to establish the parameters for who qualifies for Scottish citizenship in the future, and that’s something that can only be determined once Scotland is independent. The British state can’t prejudge who would or would not be the citizen of an independent country, which is one reason why it’s only right and proper that the franchise for the independence referendum should be restricted to those of us who currently reside in Scotland.

In the vast majority of countries, people have the right to citizenship when they are born in that country to people who are legally resident there. Those who acquire citizenship by virtue of being born in the territory of the state generally have the right to pass that citizenship on to their own children when those children are born abroad. It is likely that Scotland will extend citizenship to all British citizens resident in Scotland at the time of independence, to everyone who was born in the territory of Scotland, and to their children who were born outwith Scotland. Personally, I would hope that upon attaining independence, the new Scottish state will also offer citizenship to everyone who is legally resident in Scotland upon the date of Scottish independence – irrespective of their current citizenship. That would be a marvellous gesture to demonstrate the inclusivity of the new Scottish state.

However if you feel British no one is going to take that away from you. At least no one in Scotland. Those who identify as British will be every bit as able to participate fully in Scottish civic life as any Scottish citizen. Independence is not about forcing an identity on anyone. It’s about governance, it’s about democracy, and it’s about giving the people of this country the powers that we need in order to determine the path that this country takes.

The plan for this article and several others dealing with key points in the independence debate is to collate them and publish them in book form when we have a date for the independence vote. Some of these articles have already been published on this blog and others have yet to be written. The idea is that when we know when Scotland will be voting, I will do a crowd-funder specifically for the purpose of raising money to get the book printed, and then it can be distributed to Yes groups and campaigners and given away for free.

There’s already a Wee Blue Book, let’s have a Wee Ginger Book too. This isn’t meant as competition for the Wee Blue Book – which is a fantastic initiative with proven success – but rather it is to be complementary to it. Different writing styles and different books can appeal to different readerships and different demographics. The more information we can get out there, the more people we can persuade to Yes. If you have any suggestions for topics for articles to include in this book, let me know and I will write something up – if I haven’t done so already.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
Donate Button

If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.

Wee Ginger Dugcast – 17 August 2019

This dugcast was actually recorded yesterday, but immediately after recording it with Callum Baird of The National, I had to drive up to Aberdeen where I was speaking at an event organised by Yes North East in the Spin Bar in Littlejohn Street. I didn’t get home until 1.30am, when the dug and I crawled into bed and went to sleep.

In this edition of the dugcast, Callum and I discuss the proposal for a new Wings Over Scotland party, and Jo Swinson’s refusal to agree to the only realistic plan to prevent a no-deal Brexit. We also mention the Aberdeen event, which of course took place yesterday! It was a fantastic evening, the venue was packed out, and we had a great time. Many thanks to everyone in Aberdeen for their hospitality.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
Donate Button

If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.

Jo Swinson’s shiny ego

The Labour party’s mostly invisible branch office manager in Scotland, Reginald Lapdancer, might once have had the fond belief that being a Corbyn loyalist meant that the Jezza would be loyal in return. He has discovered that he was sadly mistaken. Or not so sadly if you’re not one of the tattered remnants of what’s left of the Labour party in Scotland. The party leader has said this week that it’s not up to the UK parliament to block a Scottish independence referendum. So, that’s you telt then, Randalf Loglauncher.

Jeremy Corbyn thinks that another Scottish independence referendum is a bad idea. He’d campaign against independence. He’d stomp the land along with the rest of them, warning of doom and devastation and deficits. All of which is fair enough. It’s perfectly fine to oppose Scottish independence, what’s not fine is to prevent the people of Scotland from debating it in a national referendum when they’ve elected a Scottish Government with a mandate to bring one about. So Jeremy doesn’t agree with the Labour branch office which wants Westminster to overrule the Scottish Parliament when the Scottish Parliament doesn’t agree with the Labour branch office. My god. Someone in Westminster gets democracy. Well, sort of.

There is of course a bigger picture here. Partly it’s the realistic electoral calculation that Labour’s Scottish contingent in Westminster is expendable. And you only have to look at Lesley Laird to go, “Well, OK. Fair enough,” to that last point. Lesley is apparently the Shadow Scotland Secretary and is supposed to be taking the lead on Labour’s Scotland policy at Westminster. However her sole distinguishing feature in Scottish Labour politics is that she has an even lower public profile and recognition than branch office manager Roderick Lambworrier. That, and she’s not Hugh Gaffney, who is only remarkable for his ability to embarrass himself. Apart from Ian Murray, who pops up on the telly from time to time to be hypocritical about whether there ought to be referendums, even those of us who are dedicated Scottish politics geeks would struggle to name the other Labour MPs who represent Scottish seats. Most of them would fail to make an mark if you gave them a big rubber stamp and an ink pad.

The Labour leadership has clearly calculated that getting the SNP to support Labour budgets is going to be far more important to the stability of any future Labour government than getting more Labour MPs in Scotland. Giving current polling, Labour is going to be extremely lucky to hang on to a single seat, Ian Murray’s. And Ian is as much a thorn in the flesh for the Labour leadership as he is for just about everyone who has the misfortune to hear him harrumphing on the telly.

The reason that he’s made the announcement now is that it is all a part of Jeremy Corbyn’s strategy to get the minority Westminster parties to agree to back him in a vote of no confidence against Boris Johnson. The plan is that Jeremy would become Prime Minister for a limited period, in order to ensure that the UK avoids a no deal Brexit.

Jeremy’s plan has however already been shot down in flames by Jo Swinson. The only thing that remain voting Middle England dislikes more than Brexit is the idea of Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street. There’s no way that Tory in drag Jo is going to be seen to back a Jeremy Corbyn government. Not even if it’s to prevent a no deal Brexit. Not even if it’s time limited. Not even if he’s going to be prevented by parliamentary arithmetic from introducing the left wing measures that he’s promised his supporters. Jo has instead suggested that the temporary government be headed by Harriet Harman, because it’s up to Jo Swinson to decide who gets to be the leader of the Labour party.

The reason for the refusal is twofold. Firstly it’s because Jo has her eye on Tory – Lib Dem marginal seats in the snap General Election which is widely predicted, and Jeremy is as toxic with Tory voters as the Lib Dems were with students after they did a U-turn on tuition fees. A U-turn which Jo voted for. It’s going to be very difficult for the Lib Dems to attract the votes of remain leaning Tories, who do actually exist, if they have been seen to prop up a Jeremy Corbyn administration.

Secondly it’s because Jo knows that the price of a temporary Corbyn administration which also requires the backing of the SNP is another Scottish independence referendum, which buggers her career. You can’t be a party leader in Westminster when you represent a seat in a country that’s independent of the UK. It’s only referendums which produce a result that Jo doesn’t like that ought to be rerun. The Lib Dems want a government of national unity, but only with those people that they think it’s politically advantageous to unite with.

So that’s the Lib Dems there, putting the interests of their party ahead of the interests of the UK as a whole. They certainly learned the lesson well when they were in coalition with the Conservatives, didn’t they. “We haven’t got time here to muck about with people’s egos,” said Jo as she burnished her shiny ego.

Time is running out here. If there is to be a grouping in Westminster which can oppose a no deal Brexit, it is only logical that it should be led by the leader of the opposition. Parliamentary arithmetic alone means that Jeremy Corbyn will not be able to introduce any measures which don’t enjoy cross-party support. Even a number of Conservative remainers is willing to meet with Labour to discuss the idea, yet Jo Swinson and the Lib Dems are still set against the idea.

The way Westminster works is that if a government fails to win a vote of no-confidence, then it’s the leader of the opposition who has the right to try to form an administration. If he or she can’t, then there’s a general election, that’s how it works. It’s not up to Jo Swinson to decide who the leader of the opposition is. It’s not up to a minority politician like Jo Swinson to unilaterally rewrite what passes for a British constitution. But then we’re talking here about a politician who preaches Liberal Democracy but practises neither. Her refusal to countenance doing a deal with Labour only makes a no deal Brexit more likely, and that in turn makes it even more likely that Scotland will turn to independence as the only means of escape. Jo Swinson’s selfish short-termism is yet another nail in the coffin of the UK. Be careful what you wish for, Jo.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
Donate Button

If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.

Elephants in rooms

Over the past couple of weeks, there’s been a new line from the anti-independence parties. David Mundell, and certain figures in the Labour party, appear now to be conceding that a mandate for another independence referendum is indeed produced by the result of a Holyrood election. It’s just that they’re insisting that the mandate can only come from a pro-independence majority in the Holyrood elections in 2021. They still refuse to concede the indisputable fact that there is already a pro-independence majority in Holyrood, that the SNP already has a mandate for another referendum, and that Holyrood has already voted in favour of one.

It’s noticeable that the anti-independence parties are not saying that a win for the SNP in a snap Westminster General Election would produce a mandate for another referendum – even though arguably a win for the SNP in Scotland in a Westminster election would produce a stronger mandate. After all, as we are constantly being reminded, the constitution is a power reserved to Westminster. So if Scotland votes for a large majority of SNP MPs elected to Westminster on a manifesto of support for another referendum, there’s an unchallengeable mandate for one.

But no, according to the likes of the discredited Mundell, it has to be a Holyrood election in 2021.  How Scotland votes in elections to the parliament which actually does have the power to alter the constitution doesn’t seem to count.  It’s not hard to see the reason why, and it’s breathtakingly cynical even by the standards of Scotland’s anti-independence parties. It’s the elephant in the room.  They are hoping that the trial of Alex Salmond, which is due to be held next year, will cause the SNP to implode. They are hoping it is going to be all their SNP bad Christmasses come at once.

Clearly, the trial of a man who was and is a towering figure in the SNP is not going to do the party any favours. The matter is of course sub-judice, so we cannot discuss the nature of the allegations against him, nor speculate about his guilt or innocence – except to note that all those charged with a crime are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

However I do not believe that the trial will have the substantial impact on support for independence that the Tories, Labour, and the Lib Dems are clearly praying for. The reason is the same reason that support for independence has never yet been dented by the constant barrage of SNP bad stories which fill the Scottish press on a daily basis. And that’s because the desire for independence is not primarily driven by belief in the SNP, but rather by a deep dissatisfaction with and alienation from Westminster politics amongst the people of Scotland. No amount of SNP bad stories in the press are going to make the Tories or Labour treat Scotland’s needs and interests with any more respect than they have done to date.  It’s Brexit and that manifest lack of respect for Scotland which are driving the rise in support for independence.  That won’t change irrespective of the Salmond trial.

I also suspect that the political fallout for the SNP produced by the trial will be considerably more limited than the anti-independence parties are hoping for. The closest parallel is the trial and acquittal of Jeremy Thorpe, the former leader of the Liberal party, in 1979. He was tried on charges of conspiring to murder his ex-lover Norman Scott – although until his death in 2014 Thorpe denied he had had a sexual relationship with Scott. Thorpe was forced to resign from the leadership of the Liberals in May 1976 after a series of increasingly lurid newspaper investigations into his relationship with Scott following the shooting of Scott’s dog in October 1975. In May 1979, just a few days after that year’s General Election which saw Margaret Thatcher enter Number 10, Thorpe was put on trial along with three others for conspiracy to murder. Thorpe was acquitted on all charges, although he never succeeded in restoring his reputation.

Thorpe had been a successful and popular leader of the Liberal party, which all through the 1960s had been a minor force in British politics, languishing in single figures in the polls and with a derisory share of the vote in General Elections. The party’s nadir came in the general election of 1970, when Jeremy Thorpe was newly elected as the Liberal leader. In that election the Liberals lost half of the 12 seats they had previously held and were left with just 6.

However once established as leader, Thorpe managed to oversee a revival of the party’s fortunes in the two General Elections of 1974. In the February election, the Liberals won 14 seats, a gain of 8.  This election was characterised by widespread public dissatisfaction with the three day week and the economic management of the UK by Edward Heath.  Under Thorpe, the Liberals were able to reap the benefit and increased their support, largely at the expense of the Tories.  That election produced a hung parliament, there was another General Election in October that year, in which the Liberals lost two MPs but gained one, leaving them with 13.

Despite a looming trial and previous months of sensational newspaper stories about Thorpe’s alleged relationship with Scott and the shooting of Scott’s dog, the Liberals still managed to pick up 11 seats in the General Election of 1979 even though Thorpe himself lost his North Devon seat to the Conservatives. The party lost three seats overall, but gained one. It is arguable that there was a “Thorpe effect”, but it seems to have been very limited in scope. The party had held around 12 or 13 seats throughout most of the 1960s and 70s, and continued to hold that number all the way through the period when the Thorpe Affair dominated the press – although before the matter had come to trial. The party pretty much held steady in opinion polling during that period. There was no collapse in Liberal support either before the trial or after it.

The first general election after the Thorpe trial is not directly comparable because the Liberals did not fight it as a single party, but rather as part of the Alliance with the newly formed SDP. The SDP was a breakaway faction of centrist Labour MPs who were dissatisfied with the leadership of the left wing Michael Foot. The Alliance doubled the number of seats previously held by the Liberals, gaining 12 and ending up with 23 MPs.

However this result does prove that the trial and its aftermath had not damaged the Liberals as a political brand.  That’s the case even though many people continued to believe that Thorpe was guilty despite his acquittal. There was a very strong lingering perception that Thorpe had behaved extremely poorly, and had not adequately explained himself. The trial was felt by many to be heavily slanted in favour of Thorpe, with the British establishment looking after its own, and the judge’s summing up – heavily biased in Thorpe’s favour – was the subject of a scathing parody by the comedian and satirist Peter Cooke.

Voters are grown ups. They are capable of distinguishing between the individual actions of a politician in a private capacity and the overall goals, aims, and philosophy of the political party to which he or she belongs. They are capable of looking at the wider political context when they cast their votes. And so they rejected Jeremy Thorpe as a politician, but they did not reject his party.

Jeremy Thorpe’s behaviour in private was not a reflection of the political ideals of the Liberal party, the public saw that. They will also see that whatever happens in the Salmond trial, it is not a reflection of the political goal of Scottish independence. The anti-independence parties may be hoping that the Salmond trial will prevent independence happening. They’re in for a big disappointment.

It’s not the Salmond trial which has the capacity to cause serious electoral damage to the SNP in 2021.  What has the capacity to cause the party serious electoral damage is if they fail to deliver on their manifesto commitment to push forward for an independence referendum during the lifetime of this Holyrood Parliament. That’s where the potential for damage lies, not the Salmond trial.  That’s the real elephant in the room for the SNP leadership.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
Donate Button

If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.

Flying kites

The news today in the Scottish press is dominated by Stu Campell’s proposal for a new pro-independence party. Apparently the musings of a pro-indy blogger are the most important thing to happen in Scotland today. Well who knew? Perhaps the BBC might even start interviewing pro-indy bloggers now. Or maybe not.

The first I knew about this idea was when it was published in his interview with Kenny Farquharson in The Times. As far as I am aware it’s not a concrete proposal, but more a solo kite flying exercise on Stu’s part. It’s simply an idea he has thrown out there for discussion.

Yet even as a kite flying exercise, the proposal has of course produced the entirely predictable slew of headlines in the anti-independence press about splits in the Yes movement. Because a half-articulated notion – it’s not even well formed enough to count as a plan – from a single politics blogger is far more important than the melt-down in the Labour party, the irrelevance into which Ruth Davidson’s Vote Ruth Davidson For More Ruth Davidson Party has been consigned by Boris Johnson, or the ever increasing mutual contempt which characterises the relationship between Scotland and the Conservative Government. So just today in the Herald we have a Tom Gordon hit job story entitled Wings over Scotland blogger attacks SNP and Greens in Yes movement split, and the anti-independence columnist Mark Smith opining How a Wings Over Scotland party could turn Yes to No. Meanwhile over in The Scotsman we have Wings Over Scotland: New pro-independence party could challenge ‘far left’ Scottish Greens.

Unfortunately this chorus line of headlines is not an indication of the true political influence of Stu Campbell, it’s more an indication of the desperation of the overwhelmingly anti-independence media in Scotland to find a distraction from the mess into which the UK has got itself, and the growing attraction of independence amongst Scottish voters as their disenchantment with Westminster grows. All that has happened here in practical terms is that the Scottish press has seized an opportunity to depict the Yes movement as being riven by division and dissent, precisely at the time when the real news story is death of Labour in Scotland, the impending doom of Brexit, and machinations within the Conservative party in Westminster to frustrate their own government. It’s a perfect example of “Oh look a squirrel.” It’s entirely predictable that the Scottish press would have reacted in this manner.

So here we are, discussing Stu Campbell’s proposal for a new party, and not the implosion of the Labour party in Scotland and with it any political force which can claim to both oppose the Tories and independence. That’s a hugely significant development, but we’ve been distracted from it.

Apparently some people have been suggesting my name as a possible candidate for this new party. Well sorry, but no. That’s not going to happen. It’s not going to happen because I would rather poke my eyes out with rusty knitting needles than stand for election for any party, whether that’s Stu’s proposed Wings party, the SNP, the Greens, or the Vote Wee Ginger Dug For More Clapping Of Dugs Party. There’s a reason I didn’t join the SNP in 2014 in the aftermath of the independence referendum, and that reason is because I don’t think it’s healthy for someone whose job is writing commentary and opinion to be tied to the manifesto of a particular political party – irrespective of what that party is.

In any event, this idea for a putative new party is premature. In that assessment I agree with James Kelly of Scot Goes Pop. We are nowhere near needing to set up a new political party for Yes voters. That’s a decision which doesn’t have to be taken until other avenues to an independence referendum have been exhausted. There’s still quite a road to travel there. Yes, I understand the frustration with the caution and small-c conservatism of the SNP leadership. They are frustrations which I share. But I believe that the way to counter them is to redouble our efforts to campaign, to persuade, to spread information, and to demonstrate the strength of pro-independence feeling on the ground. It’s only by doing so that we can provide the SNP leadership with the political confidence it needs to press ahead with demands for a referendum.

It could certainly be argued that the recent opinion poll showing majority support for independence is a vindication of the ‘steady as she goes’ strategy of Nicola Sturgeon.  It was always expected that Brexit and a Boris Johnson government would produce a boost in support for independence in Scotland.  Only one of those events has actually come to pass.  It is entirely likely that when Brexit does happen, there will be a further boost in support for independence in the polls.  A series of opinion polls showing increasing support for independence and demand for a referendum will make the current refusal of the anti-independence parties to countenance a referendum politically untenable.

The current SNP plan is to hold an independence referendum in 2020. That’s the preference of Nicola Sturgeon, and over the weekend deputy leader Keith Brown announced that the party plans to ramp up its preparations for a referendum.  If that referendum does indeed come to pass, then any plans for a new Yes party in 2021 are entirely moot. While the Westminster parties are united in their refusal to concede another independence referendum at the moment, denying the mandate that the Scottish Government currently possesses and denying that the Scottish Parliament has already voted in favour of another referendum, that refusal may not be able to survive the political fallout from a snap Westminster election in which the SNP perform strongly and increase the number of Westminster seats that they hold.

This is especially the case if a snap General Election produces a minority government with the SNP holding the balance of power. Either the Labour party may seek a confidence and supply deal with the SNP in return for a Section 30 order, or a minority Boris Johnson administration may agree to a Section 30 order as a way of getting rid of those troublesome Scots and increasing his majority in Westminster. Those are just two possible scenarios. There is also the political reality that a strong showing from the SNP in that election will destroy the arguments currently deployed against a referendum by the anti-independence parties, and increase the pressure on them to respect the democratic will of the people of Scotland.

There’s no guarantee that the election is going to take place of course, but all observers agree that it’s looking increasingly likely. Just today, Monday, the Guardian is reporting that a group of rebel Tory MPs, including former Chancellor Philip Hammond, are planning a move in the second week of September in order to prevent a no-deal Brexit. If they are successful, Boris Johnson will have no choice but to call an election in order to change parliamentary arithmetic so that he can get his way.

It is this early UK general election which Yes campaigners ought to be focussing on just now, not the elections of 2021. In that UK general election – sorry Greens – it’s going to be the SNP which is the only pro-independence party which has any chance at all of getting seats. That’s the nature of the first past the post system so beloved of Westminster. So we need to concentrate our efforts on ensuring that we maximise the SNP vote in the elections which are most likely to come first. That should be our current priority, not thinking about setting up a new party.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
Donate Button

If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.

Wee Ginger Dugcast – 9 August 2019

ABOVE FINAL SENTENCE
In the latest edition of the dugcast, The National’s editor Callum Baird and I discuss what has been a momentous week for the Scottish independence movement. The anecdotal reports that many people who had voted No in 2014 are now switching to Yes were confirmed by the poll from the Conservative pollster Michael Ashcroft which put support for independence in the lead. We talk about the poll, the BBC’s shameful lack of coverage of it, the implications for the movement, and the meltdown in the Labour party in Scotland.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
Donate Button

If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.

The Federalism Fairy flaps again, again

federalismfairy
It’s as regular as prune addict on a high fibre diet, every time that there’s a boost in support for independence, some opponent of independence keeches out the Federalism Fairy.  Back when the Edinburgh Agreement was being negotiated between Alex Salmond and David Cameron, both the Conservatives and Labour refused to allow any question on devo max or federalism to figure on the ballot paper. This was because the anti-independence parties were so supremely confident that they would win, and win by a crushing margin, that they didn’t feel any need to trouble themselves with making any concessions to Scotland. Yet here we are, seven years on, and Labour’s Paul Sweeney is insisting that there can’t be a referendum unless there’s a question about federalism on the ballot paper. You’d almost wonder whether Paul thinks that if there’s a binary choice like there was the last time that he’d lose.

Perhaps we might take Labour in Scotland’s proclaimed enthusiasm for federalism a tad more seriously if they hadn’t sent Gordie Broon intervening all over the place in 2014 promising to implement federalism if Scotland voted no in the referendum that year. Gordie promised that he personally would hold the party leaders to account, and the second the no vote was delivered he vanished into the lucratively paid lecture circuit, leaving the federalism fairy to die a lonely death. Just like 2014, there are no detailed plans, no route map, nothing beyond vague aspirations. And absolutely no mechanism to ensure that federalism actually takes place in an England which has shown zero interest in the idea.

The federalism fairy is however Labour’s fall back in a constitutional crisis. Labour in Scotland had the rug pulled away from underneath it this week after Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said that Labour wouldn’t block another independence referendum. Paul’s resuscitation of the Federalism Fairy has quite a lot to do with the panic that now infests what’s left of the ranks of the Labour party in Scotland. But still, you do have to love the irony of Labour in Scotland being outraged because their bosses in London are making decisions which Labour in Scotland doesn’t agree with on the very topic of Scottish outrage about our bosses in London making decisions which Scotland doesn’t agree with. There they are, campaigning for Scotland to be told what to do by Westminster but when Westminster tells them what to do they get all huffy about it.

Of course, Paul isn’t about to concede that there should be a referendum any time soon. He thinks that there should be another independence referendum only if the SNP secures a majority for one in 2021, only if it’s written in the SNP manifesto IN VERY LARGE LETTERS on the front page, only if him and his pals get to determine the format of the vote and there’s also a question about federalism, and then if there’s a yes vote to independence then it will need to be put to another confirmatory referendum after independence negotiations are complete. So it’s not like he’s putting preconditions on anything, oh no, not at all. And definitely not giving Westminster licence to negotiate in bad faith so there’s a deal that the people of Scotland would reject. Heaven forfend you might imagine such a thing.

Paul speaks like a man who believes that he’s in a position to dictate from a position of strength. That would be the strength of coming his party coming in fifth place in the most recent elections in Scotland, and judging by the opinion polls quite likely to see its Scottish seats in the Commons wiped out at the next General Election.

Meanwhile Labour in Scotland continues to tie itself in knots. The branch office manager Roger Leotard, who is opposed to another referendum, was furious that a group of MSPs released a statement to the press saying that they’re opposed to another referendum after the previous statement from branch office manager Rupert Leopard that he opposed a referendum was slapped down by the Shadow Chancellor who is opposed to independence. This is the level of clarity we’ve come to expect from the Labour party.

The game plan, such as it is, from all the anti-independence parties in Scotland right now is to deny that a mandate currently exists for an independence referendum despite the fact that the SNP was elected in 2016 with a mandate for an independence referendum should there be a change in circumstances such as Brexit. There’s precious little harmony within the Labour party these days, but Paul Sweeney and branch office manager Rudolph Legwarmer both agree that existing mandate doesn’t exist at all, because it wasn’t written in a large enough font in the SNP’s 2016 manifesto.

Paul and branch office manager Ranulph Lawnmower are singing from the same songsheet as David Mundell who didn’t resign. In between admitting that he won’t actually vote to bring down Boris Johnson’s government to prevent a no deal Brexit, the spineless one confirmed that he too was willing to consider another referendum if the SNP win a majority in 2021, but only if the campaign is “explicitly” fought on that basis. And even then he didn’t actually say he’d agree to another referendum, merely that a demand for one should be “listened to”. Which is another way of saying, “Well I have listened but I still don’t agree.” Not that anyone need care about the opinion of a former Scotland Secretary who repeatedly threatened to resign but then got sacked instead. He had no dignity in office, and no dignity in the way he left it.

However this is progress of sorts, in that they are at least conceding that a mandate for a referendum derives from a Scottish vote and shouldn’t be blocked by Westminster. However it’s really just kicking the can down the road in the hope that the SNP will not gain a majority, or that the dog might eat branch office manager Reginald Lapdancer’s homework, or there’s a flood or an earthquake, or perhaps that the people of Scotland will wake up one morning and think “Naa, let’s not bother with this independence lark,” and the whole nasty business will just go away. They’re no more sincere in their apparent willingness to agree to a referendum then they were in their willingness to implement that federalism that they promised us in 2014. Because if none of their contingencies come to pass they will just continue to insist that there’s no mandate for a referendum like they’re doing at the moment.

The anti-independence parties can continue to deny it all they like, but there is currently a pro-independence majority in Holyrood, the SNP was elected on a manifesto which promised a referendum should Scotland be taken out of the EU against its will – which the British government is committed to doing by 31 October – and the Scottish Parliament has already voted in favour of another referendum. Ignoring this or denying it is simply gaslighting the people of Scotland. No amount of waving the federalism fairy’s magic wand will distract from that reality. There is almost certainly going to be a Westminster General Election before the next Holyrood elections, that election will render the opinions of the likes of David Mundell, Paul Sweeney, and branch officer manager Raymond Lipsmacker even more irrelevant than they are at the moment.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


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GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.

It doesn’t take a generation to change your mind

ianmurray
These days the favourite sound bite of politicians opposed to Scottish independence is that the 2014 referendum was a “once in a generation” event.  They tell us that means that there should not and cannot be another for at least another decade or two.

This is a profoundly anti-democratic stance to take. Effectively those who espouse this argument are saying that the electorate should be deprived of any means to hold the winners of the 2014 referendum to account – while at the same time they insist that the losers must respect the result. Yet really, it’s more important that it’s the winners of a vote who must respect the result, by respecting the promises and commitments that they made in order to win the vote. Democracy can only function if the electorate are able to hold the winners of elections to account. Those who won the referendum of 2014 are seeking to deprive the people of Scotland of any means of holding them to account for their failure to abide by some of the key promises and commitments that were made by the Better Together campaign to keep Scotland within the UK, not the least of which was the claim that it was only by voting no that Scotland could remain a part of the EU.

Both Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon were clear that they were offering personal opinions when they described the 2014 referendum as a “once in a generation opportunity”. There certainly was no firm commitment on their part that the question should never be put to Scotland again until the present generation has died off. What was really meant by the phrase was that the vote in 2014 only came about because of the unprecedented circumstances of an SNP majority in a parliament and voting system which was designed to produce minority governments.

There was nothing in the Edinburgh Agreement about it being a “once in a generation” vote. It was the Edinburgh Agreement which set the political parameters for the referendum. If the referendum really was intended to be a once in a generation affair, you’d imagine that this crucial document might have mentioned that fact. Equally there was nothing on the ballot paper to suggest that it was a “once in a generation” vote. I voted in that referendum, the question was “Should Scotland become an independent country?” not “Should Scotland become an independent country and if the result is no then do you agree to surrender your right to ever have the question asked again in your lifetime?”

In the white paper Scotland’s Future, Your Guide to an Independent Scotland, which was published by the Scottish government in the run up to the referendum of 2014, there are two mentions of the phrase “once in a generation opportunity”. On page 3 it says “If we vote No, Scotland stands still. A once in a generation opportunity to follow a different path, and choose a new and better direction for our nation, is lost.” On page 10 it describes the referendum as “a once in a generation opportunity to chart a better way.” Note the exact words there, “once in a generation opportunity”, not “once in a generation referendum”.

Those are the only two mentions of the phrase in the White Paper, both came in the introduction. Nowhere in the document is an explicit commitment that there will only be another referendum after a generation has passed, for two reasons. Firstly because those who wrote the document were hoping for a yes vote, in which case a second referendum is moot. Secondly and more importantly it’s because the phrase was never intended as a political promise. It was a description of the perceived likelihood of there being another SNP majority government in Holyrood.

It is widely known that the voting system used for Holyrood elections is designed to produce minority governments which require coalition partners. This was the result of a deal done behind closed doors between Labour’s Donald Dewar and the Lib Dems’ Menzie Campbell. The plan was that Holyrood would in perpetuity be governed by a coalition of Labour with the Lib Dems. It was designed to freeze out both the SNP and the Conservatives. And the plan worked well enough for the first ten years of the parliament. The SNP won a minority victory in 2007, much to Labour’s chagrin. Labour was expected to win the election of 2011, but much to everyone’s surprise, including the surpise of the SNP leadership, the SNP didn’t only manage to win the election, it managed to win an outright victory with a majority of Holyrood seats. No one had ever expected such an outcome to be possible, and reports in the aftermath of the election described the SNP as having broken the system.

This is the context in which the “once in a generation” comment must be understood. No one in the SNP expected the party to win an outright majority in 2011, and before that election no one had believed that the party would be in a position to deliver its promise to hold an independence referendum.

Remember that all this was taking place before the referendum of 2014 broke the mould of Scottish politics forever. The SNP, and just about everyone else back then, believed that losing the referendum would see the end of the SNP’s independence plans, and would most likely result in the party failing to remain the largest party after the next Holyrood election, never mind securing an absolute majority. It was believed that the independence referendum was only possible because of the highly unusual circumstances of the SNP’s shock majority victory in the election of 2011, a set of circumstances which were thought to be unlikely to be repeated any time soon.

The only reason that this “once in a generation” statement has become a political issue now is because there is a demand for another vote, there is a majority in Holyrood for another vote, and because that vote is highly likely to produce a yes result. Opponents of independence know that their best hope of preventing independence is to prevent the question ever being asked, and they will grasp at any straw that helps them to do so, no matter what damage it does to the fabric of Scottish democracy. They know that the people of Scotland will not judge them kindly for their failure to live up to the promises and commitments that they made to Scotland in order to secure a No victory in 2014. When politicians cannot be held to account for their failure to abide by their promises, democracy dies.

But even if it were the case that there was a firm commitment that the 2014 was “once in a generation”, so what? If a Westminster government cannot bind its successors, then why should that same rule not apply to Holyrood? If circumstances change then another referendum is perfectly justified, indeed it becomes a democratic necessity. Democracy is not an event, it’s an ongoing process. A democracy which refuses to acknowledge the right of the people to change their minds when circumstances change is no democracy at all.

Labour MP Ian Murray, that’ll be the Ian Murray who is currently banging on about how the referendum was “once in a generation”, said on Channel 4 news on Wednesday evening that there shouldn’t be another independence referendum because the people had spoken in 2014. Then he asserted that there definitely ought to be another EU referendum because the first had been won on fear and lies. Sauce for the goose, meet sauce for the gander. This is also the Ian Murray who told the House of Commons on 8 April 2019, “A democracy fails to be a democracy if the people are not allowed to change their mind. That is exactly what the people have been doing.” Indeed Ian, indeed. And they don’t need to take a generation to do so.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


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If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.