The most important issue in the coming indyref: Scottish democracy or British authoritarian sleaze

During the 2014 independence referendum campaign there was a lofty assumption by Better Together campaigners of the supposed superiority of British institutions and of the UK and the Westminster parliament as a yardstick of democratic standards of government. Some opponents of independence went so far as to insist that it was only because of the UK that Scotland enjoyed democracy and that as an independent state Scotland was at grave risk of descending into authoritarianism and becoming a one-party state in which any opposition to the government would not be tolerated.

Others asserted that it was only the tender administrations of Westminster which prevented fractious Scots from falling into civil unrest with the Highlands tearing lumps out of the Lowlands, Glasgow from attacking Edinburgh, and English born residents of Scotland being rounded up into internment centres prior to being deported. One of the most frequent claims was that Westminster and the UK protected Scotland from the perils of nationalism. Throughout the campaign there was a constant denial that British nationalism even existed. Nationalism was a curse for Scotland, a curse for which Westminster provided the cure.

Throughout the campaign, any questioning of the democratic credentials of the Westminster system were met with howls of British nationalist derision. We were constantly told that Westminster was the world’s most successful and stable democracy and that Scotland needed Westminster as a guarantor of democratic standards. This was an unquestioned assertion, constantly reinforced by Scotland’s overwhelmingly anti-independence media as well as by the Bitter Together parties. Left to our own devices, we were told, Scotland would descend into barbarism, social strife and totalitarianism.

Eight years on and it is clear that Scotland is indeed in very real danger of falling into authoritarianism due to an intolerant and xenophobic nationalism, that life is being crushed out of the fragile flower of democracy by corrupt nationalist politicians who consider themselves to be above the law and who are neutering any institution or organisation which could potentially hold them to account, while at the same time taking steps to criminalise protest and to restrict the right to vote. This danger comes from the right wing Anglo-British nationalists who have taken control of the Conservative party following the Brexit vote which they orchestrated with a campaign of lies, mendacity and deceit.

Despite their continuing denials, it is laughable for the Conservatives to pretend that they are anything other than xenophobic parochial nationalists obsessed with a romanticised vision of a long lost past, precisely all the sins which they accused supporters of independence of embodying in that referendum so long ago, which took place in such an utterly different world.

It is also now laughable for opponents of independence to insist that Scotland needs the UK in order to guard against authoritarianism and the destruction of democratic safeguards. The greatest threat to democracy in Scotland comes from a Conservative Government at Westminster which is presided over by a corrupt law breaking serial liar who cannot be held to account and who holds the norms and standards of democracy in contempt because he knows that the spineless party of charlatans which is formed in his image will allow him to get away with it. Johnson is bereft of morals and principles other than an abiding lifelong conviction that he should be allowed to do as he pleases and it is churlish to insist that he faces any consequences for his behaviour.

However this is about more than one man who is manifestly unfit for the office that he holds. It is about the entire Westminster system which put him there and which hands absolute power to the occupant of Downing Street but lacks any effective or meaningful checks and balances or means of removing a law-breaking liar from power. This is why we are in the ludicrous position of having to rely on Conservative MPs to unseat him, so that they can replace him with another of their ranks who is equally tainted by the sins of the Johnson regime in order to cement their party’s hold on power.

It’s like expecting East London gangsters to grass the Kray twins up to the police so that another crime boss can take over and rob more banks with impunity. That however is the closest that the Westminster system provides to any means of ensuring that those in the highest office abide by the rules.

The issue of securing and defending democracy must be front and foremost in the referendum campaign that lies ahead. Within the UK, Scotland runs a serious risk of seeing democracy destroyed, or at least neutered and rendered meaningless. It must be obvious by now that Westminster is incapable of reforming itself and that neither of the two main British parties have any intention of doing so anyway. They both have a vested interest in keeping things exactly as they are. Our civil liberties and democratic rights will continue to be whittled away by politicians who will grow ever more arrogant with every passing scandal as it will merely reinforce their confidence that they can get away with anything without having to face any consequences.

Independence is the only way in which Scotland can guarantee democracy. We need a written constitution which explicitly spells out the procedures for removing an elected official from office if he or she is found guilty of having broken the rules. We need an effective redistribution of powers between the legislature, the executive and the judiciary with meaningful checks and balances in place in order to ensure that power cannot be amassed by the head of government in the way that successive Prime Ministers of the UK have turned the office of the Prime Minister, who is theoretically only first amongst equals in the cabinet into what is effectively an all powerful autocrat with few limits on their power and influence. When that Prime Minister is as immoral and corrupt as Johnson the law breaker and habitual liar, the fragility and shallow roots of democracy in the UK are laid starkly bare.

The British state traditionally did without such formal provisions, choosing to rely upon what was called the “good chap” theory of government, relying on the principles, sense of honour and shame of those in high office to resign if they had breached the customs, principles and traditions which underpin the British constitution. It’s a system which is rendered useless when the high offices of state are occupied by unprincipled liars like Johnson, Gove, or Patel, who are utterly bereft of any sense of shame and whose only principle is to do whatever is in their own self-interest.

This current scandal will go the way of all other Westminster scandals, even if Johnson is eventually forced from office the system which allowed such a manifestly unfit individual to attain the highest office will remain in place, and the UK will continue to go down the road to jingoistic flag ridden British nationalist authoritarianism. Only independence can guarantee that democracy is secure in Scotland. The fate of democracy must be the major issue in the referendum to come.

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34 comments on “The most important issue in the coming indyref: Scottish democracy or British authoritarian sleaze

  1. James Mills says:

    Correct , Paul !
    Getting shot of Johnson is not the answer .
    Getting shot of the Tories is not the answer .
    Westminster is the problem !
    I have no trust in the current Labour Party being any better than the current mob of criminals at doing the right thing for ”the country” .
    Blair and Brown , when in office , did not do much to change the direction of travel of this ”country” .
    They maintained the anachronistic First-Past-The -Post system of election which should have been put to bed together with the dominance of our institutions by the ‘elite’ Private Schools and Oxbridge and the monarchy and the lack of a written constitution etc…

    We cannot look to Westminster to solve any problems – Westminster IS THE PROBLEM !

  2. Capella says:

    You pinpoint the root cause of our problem. We can’t do anything about creating a fair and equal country so long as we are subjected to the interference of a corrupt oligarchy posing as the “mother of all parliaments”.

    The den of thieves will be asking the Prime Minister questions today. But that ritual is as ineffective as every other sham attempt to hold the government to account. But even if Johnston was forced to resign, who would replace him? Priti Patel, Liz Truss, Michael Gove, Dominic Raab, Savid Javid, Nadine Dorries! What a bunch of Hogarthian grotesques.

    Westminster never was democratic and we can’t fix it.

  3. Simon Taylor says:

    I see latest polling from The Times has Yes at 45%…..
    I despair of my fellow Scots !
    It feels like I’m missing something. I do not feel part of the Great British Union. And I just don’t get people who still feel better as part of the UK ? Is it in our nature to be comfortable with subservience? Are Scots only happy when they’re miserable? I really just don’t get it anymore

    • Capella says:

      We can’t take any poll in a newspaper, especially a unionist newspaper (which is almost all of them), at face value. They can skew the numbers in all sorts of ways. We used to be able to go to Scot Goes Pop for an analysis of how the poll was conducted and how reliable the results are. But sadly SGP now spends most of the time attacking the SNP.

      So hold fire before getting down about a unionist poll. It may turn out to be pure fiction designed to demoralise.

      • weegingerdug says:

        YouGov polls typically give a poorer result for independence than polls from other companies.

      • auldmarcia says:

        The voting intentions for Westminster and Holyrood are very good for the SNP after 15 years in office. There is potential for Yes to grow based on those figures.

    • Not-My-Real-Name says:

      Hi Simon,,,,,A poll via papers like The Times will always produce polls that show Yes as being lower than NO…..that’s their job.

      However re ANOTHER poll the UK Government have hired a TOP lawyer to fight, in the courts, their poll on the Union being released ( the one instigated by Gove)… personally I do not think it’s bad for them as in the result of poll….I think it’s very very bad for them…so bad they have gone to great lengths….and are still going to great lengths….. to suppress the results of that poll….ALMOST as it that poll itself could perhaps finally destroy their argument that they use constantly re majority of Scots NOT wanting another independence Referendum….. or indeed more to the point Scots wanting to stay in their UK…the poll says…NO.

      Believe me the UK government really really NEED to know the truth of the situation because their opposition to another Indy Ref cannot be sustained forever……so this poll WILL be as accurate and honest a poll they could possibly implement considering their bias as Unionists……but in this instance they HAVE to know the TRUE position of Scots feelings on the continuance of their Union.

      I mean what do they think people will assume in their going to such great lengths in suppressing this poll ….do they think , as Unionists, that people will think it shows the Union as winning the argument as in it revealing support for the Union being higher in this poll….Duh

      Do not despair…..

      Have a nice day

      • Golfnut says:

        I have little doubt there is more to Goves poll than the Indy question since it was a UK wide poll. It after all is supposed to be a state of the union poll. What if England wanted rid of Scotland, they’ve been brainwashed into believing that Scotland is sink hole for English taxes. What if they asked the question about nuclear weapons and where they should go if Scotland gets rid of them and it was rejected.

    • Dr Jim says:

      Probably best to pay no attention to polls whatsoever, since 2014 polling companies have never asked the question YES or NO in a direct method, most polling follows the method of asking ambiguous questions involving various invented timings for a referendum to happen creating deliberate doubt in the electorates mind as to what when or how such a thing will take place, then the analysts of such data extrapolate and interpret their findings and magically it always seems to come up with roughly the same figure giving the indication that *nothings changed* and nothing will change when it comes to polling because that’s why they design it in this way to create to the public the impression that nobody is really that bothered

      If that were so then why on the UK governments own secret polling that they refused to release under FOI and have now hired Englands number one QC at a cost of up to £1 million by the time it’s over to defend their refusal to release a public document showing the exact answer to the question of YES or NO that they the UK commissioned with our money

      The SNP know the numbers but can’t get them legally released, the UK government know the numbers and refuse to release them, the media even know the numbers, it’s only the public who are kept deliberately in the dark because when they do find out the truth the game will be up

    • Statgeek says:

      Pretty much any Indyref poll will be weighted in part by the 2014 referendum. Depending on how a pollster internally weighs past results can really skew things a few percent either way. YG have a bit of previous in that regard. The population is eight years older. Kids at primary school in 2014 can vote now. Such weighting is of less value as every year passes, and if a polling company gives it the same weight, it IS getting it wrong (no proof that any company is doing this, just making the point).

      Then there’s margin of error. If the average poll is 1,000 people with a margin of error of +/- 3%, and Indy support is at 48%, we might see 45% to 51% without actual VI changing. Hence why it’s important for the media to not over-egg or dismiss polls one way or the other (and for supporters of either side), when a poll, or better yet, a series of polls are within said MoE.

      Ultimately, polls seem to do more to generate opinion, rather than measure it. Ten different people will find ten different ‘facts’ in a poll and push said fact at their audience to justify their rhetoric.

      • Statgeek says:

        Additionally it’s important to check poll age of sample. Many only poll 18+ people, and 16-17 year olds will vote in Indyref 2.

        • James says:

          This poll is 16+, unweighted indy figures are 47 yes / 53 no

          Also some headline voting figures:


          SNP 46
          Lab 22
          Con 19
          LD 6


          SNP 47
          Lab 23
          Con 18
          LD 7


          SNP 39
          Lab 21
          Con 18
          LD 8
          Green 10
          Alba 2

          No real changes except the switch between Labour and Conservatives for second.

          Click to access TimesResults_Scotland_220523_w.pdf

  4. Alex Clark says:

    Johnson is going to get away with the parties and the boozing and the lying if PMQ’s is anything to go by. Starmer didn’t bring it up and it was left to Ian Blackford who was heckled, jeered, and laughed at throughout his question.

    Every single one of those Tory backbenchers is as reprehensible and disgusting as Johnson and his sycophantic cabinet. Scotland must be rid of this cancer and for that, we must become an Independent country.

    Not to do so means we are accepting of being ruled by people who will rob us blind and there is no doubt that they will do their damndest to end devolution and close our parliament too if we fail to grab Independence when we next have that chance.

    • davetewart says:

      He’s just used the Dugdale, I honestly believed I was following the rules.

    • Golfnut says:

      Personally, where I in parliament, I’d be focusing on how many unnecessary deaths the useless bastard is responsible for rather than parties, I would be interested to see how many of the drunken rabble sitting behind him jeered then.

  5. Welsh_Siôn says:

    Off topic:

    Congratulations to Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon:

    “Nicola Sturgeon has become Scotland’s longest-serving first minister. So what has she done with her seven-and-a-half years at the top of Scottish politics – and what could be next for the SNP leader?”

    The quotation is the sub-title from a feature on the BBC website assessing NS’s period in power … I suspect the usual guff so, I told myself: “tl;dr”

    Just in case …

  6. Old Pete says:

    Totally agree with all of your comments Paul.

  7. Capella says:

    Mike Russell emailed this link to a new independence video in mid May to celebrate the success of the LA elections. It summarises the case for independence very well. The voice over sounds uncannily like DRoss 😂

  8. Hamish100 says:

    Maybe even more SNP councillors would have helped too.
    Met my pal and his better half from Oban in Glasgow the other day. She said that some snp councillors were given a free shoe in ( pally with people of influence) while others were forced to have 2nd candidates. Interference in local selection processes are not a good look for any party. Activists are likely to say no more.
    I hope the SNP President reflects on this as Argyll and Bute is led by the tories and Lib Dem’s.

    Still the need for Independence is even more important. Even some labour, Lib Dem’s and those who never vote must be encouraged to say Yes in 2023.
    Has Henry McLeish, Jim Sillars declared yet? Lol

  9. Alex Clark says:

    This is Blackford being jeered and laughed at by Tory backbenchers at PMQ’s as he accuses Johnson of presiding over a culture of “drinking and debauchery” in No 10. I think that last part was what stung.

  10. Welsh_Siôn says:

    Another bit of off topic – as I’m flitting between here and work and haven’t the time to write much about Gray Reports and such like.

    But … how Scottish sides must be aching from laughing at this.


    You may recall that a few weeks back Plaid Cymru and Labour (Government) came to a deal as how they would like the Senedd to grow in numbers, change the voting system to a PR type (the first nation in the UK to use this system at Parliamentary level) and much more besides.

    Now, the Viceroy-General of the Western Colonies (Simon the Hart-less) has given voice to the ‘undemocratic’ nature of these principles and … yes … he wants there to be a Referendum before any such plans are implemented.

    Plaid and Labour combined (and presumably the sole Lib. Dem. have an electoral majority of over 2/3 MS’s in order to implement these ideas without a referendum. And now the hypocritical Tories – who have spent ages (and continue to do so) fighting the rights of Scots to have a say in their future and perhaps, independence, start clamouring that the voice of the (Welsh) people should be heard – as it’s the democratic thing to do!

    You couldn’t (almost) make it up – but, hey, with the Tories, any form of hypocrisy is possible.


    Full story here:

  11. Hamish100 says:

    I see the bbc news are providing Johnson with a free party Political broadcast so he can spout his lies without questioning. The man is a coward.

  12. Hamish100 says:

    I wonder how the tories will deal with the rail track strike across Wales, Scotland and England. Will they blame the FM and if so will their counterparts in England blame Johnson? I think we know the answer.

  13. Dr Jim says:

    I laughed this morning at some of the news and future news to come as described by the *news* channels, in Scotland *where we live* we have the BBC, whether it be television or radio, and they’re asking us our opinion how we should move forward with respect to Boris Johnsons behaviour, they even have people like Stephen Jardine telling us he’s going to run programmes like phone ins especially on our opinions, and like *debate night* where we in Scotland can *discuss* the whole sordid affair surrounding Boris Johnson, and again I laughed my head off

    Scotland expresses its opinion on all Tories every time there’s an election, and in the last 60 years or so Scotland keeps saying we don’t damn well want them, and we say it loud and clear with bells and whistles on our votes, but guess what the BBC never admits to? guess what the BBC never tells its listeners or viewers? Scotland can do nothing about Boris Johnson or the next PM or the next after that, Scotlands votes do not count in UK general elections, if England votes Tory that’s what Scotland gets, if England votes Labour, same thing, the only times Scotland ever got what it wanted by democratic vote in elections was by coincidence of England voting for the same thing

    So in Scotland where we live the BBC is the perpetrator of one of the biggest lies ever to be used on the population of any country, in that when we vote as a UK it ‘s of paramount importance for the election of the UK government, it’s a lie and the BBC are responsible for continuing to treat Scotland under the direction of the government in England like complete and utter fools

    The political parties of the union with England are foisted upon Scotland, the Labour party had the longest run at fooling Scotland into thinking we had a voice in who ran our country but as we all know the population of Scotland have since found them out to be even bigger liars than the BBC because we still got Tories anyway, and if they had any self respect whatsoever they’d have held their hands up and at the very least said sorry, but they didn’t and they won’t, they just double down on the big lie and keep lying about the *fact* that they can do something about the way England votes if only we in Scotland would just vote for them, we did that. we’ve done that and we’re not doing it again because we caught them out damn well lying over and over again

    So the actual biggest and most dangerous political party in Scotland has always been the BBC, because guess what again folks? we can’t vote that party out of office because the authority for that lies in England where the main political power has always lain, the *England party*, call it by any other of the invented names for themselves you like, Tory Labour Liberal Democrat, because it’s all the same thing ruling Scotland by the will of the voters of England

    So how does Scotland make our votes really count? Hmmn let me think, there must be a way, what can it be? shall we talk about it? shall we show some graphs? what about asking people in the street? shall we talk to some union politicians? shall we invite an audience onto the TV? shall we talk to a Scottish politician making sure they’re outnumbered at least three to one so they only take up minimum time on the programme? shall we all tune into our big informative programme Question Time from somewhere in England to see if they can solve the big political questions of the day that Scotlands votes don’t make any difference to?

    Let’s not allow the BBC and others to get away with this childrens hour deception show any longer, there’s only one way Scotland gets to decide what’s happening in Scotland

    There’s only one way Scotland will ever have the power to vote any politician or party out of office if they do wrong, and it’s by not being part of Englands enforced undemocratic lying union

    And guess what? that’s the truth, something you’ll never get from *The England party* or the BBC

    • Not-My-Real-Name says:

      Very well said and written Dr Jim.

      IF a newly elected Labour councillor was scunnered at the DEALS Labour are orchestrating with their Tory pals just now and decide to jump ship , then proclaim that they, Labour, WERE doing deals with the Tory party in councils in Scotland and all with Anas Sarwar’s blessing….if THAT happened…the BBC would say that he, the councillor, was a disgruntled councillor or describe him in some other negative terms which would then create doubt for viewers or listeners in what he was actually saying as a whistleblower with genuine grievances and concern……he, the councillor, would be treated as if like a spurned lover seeking revenge but now bitter and resentful……OR, as they also do very often NOT report on it at all.

      THAT’s what the BBC do…..conceal the facts by muddying the waters in presenting THEIR version of the truth (lies) to protect Unionist politicians…..basically they are spokespersons for Unionist politicians while also actively campaigning against the SNP by exaggerating situations involving them including omitting pertinent facts but always mindful in including criticisms provided by their bosses aka Unionist politicians….that’s their job.

  14. Capella says:

    Liz Truss backs down with US delegates on the case.

    No plans to ditch post-Brexit deal says Truss despite ‘drift’ warning

    FOREIGN Secretary Liz Truss has said problems with the Northern Ireland Protocol cannot be allowed to “drift”, but insisted the post-Brexit agreement would not be scrapped.

    Truss, who is in Northern Ireland to visit companies affected by the protocol, pledged to remove “customs bureaucracy” whilst at the same time protecting the EU Single Market.

    Her visit coincided with a trip to Derry by a group of Democratic and Republican delegates from the US house of representatives and senate, led by congressman Richard Neal.

    • Dr Jim says:

      Let’s hope Scotland gets some of the same support from our American friends when it’s our turn

      • Capella says:

        I don’t know if the Senate is as packed full of Scottish delegates as it is of Irish. But we can hope. The US seems to support some and oppose others i.e. if it’s in its own interests.

  15. Capella says:

    Abbi Garton-Crosbie’s analysis of Boris Johnston’s presser.

    Boris Johnson’s press conference shows Sue Gray pressure getting to PM

    He was visibly furious when probed for details on why Martin Reynolds, the PM’s former private secretary who organised the bring your own booze party and texted a fellow staff member to say they “seem to have got away with” drinking and partying, was being given a cushty job in the Foreign Office and is set to take up the role as ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

  16. Dr Jim says:

    Once again we see following Deputy John Swinney taking Nicola Sturgeons place at FMQs because of her illness due to Covid the all England union parties main representative in Scotland the BBC and two of their stalwart journalists from the Times union supporting newspaper and the Herald union supporting newspaper join together to totally misrepresent the doings in the chamber only moments prior

    Deputy FM Swinney eviscerated Tory Douglas Ross and his flimsy accusations then went on to do the same with Ross’s Tory B party junior Anas Sarwar while simultaneously pointing out MSP B team Jackie Baillie’s duplicitous interventions in Edinburgh councils grubby no deal deal to place the all England party in charge of that council even though the SNP actually won the election

    Vote Labour get Tory, John Swinney said, and he was right, once again proving there are no separate union parties in Scotland there is only one union party and it’s the all England Tories

    To all Labour voters out there being taken for mugs by Sarwar, they’re using your loyalty and votes to install the very people you hope to expel, and the reason? the Labour party you once voted for does not exist and hasn’t for many years, they lied to you then and they’re lying to you now

    There is only the all England party, so vote Labour vote Liberal Democrat you’ll still end up installing Tories

    • Not-My-Real-Name says:

      ABSOLUTELY Dr Jim……in voting Labour or Lib Dem you’re not voting for a party whose politics are distinctive from the Tories ….you are voting merely for a party that also supports the (non) Union thus ultimately ensuring that the Tories at HQ continue to REMAIN in charge in their UK……..we all know the REAL coalition of chaos….. it’s the sometimes unmentioned and non declared but steadfast coalition between Unionist political parties in Scotland to try and SAVE their (non) Union and also to stop the SNP and Greens being elected or when they DO get elected try to stop them, SNP & Greens, taking control…….simples.

      Remember when Alex ‘F*ck You Maree’ Cole-Hamilton declared he would seek a coalition with the Tories in council elections…then flip flopped (like DRoss) when bad publicity via #PartyGate made him supposedly change his mind (he didn’t though…as if)….now he has once again REVERSED his position and they, the Lib Dems, are colluding with Tories in Scottish councils….opportunists and scavengers that is THE Lib Dem party…Sarwar is just another liar too who , as a politician, talks the talk but never ever walks the walk…..they all only need to open their mouths for us to know that they are lying…..

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