Stepping back from the fray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The suspicious case of the vanishing blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A significant force or RISE 2.0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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