Rebellious Scots to shush: Why Scotland needs another independence referendum

This is the first in a series of articles looking at the topics which will dominate the coming independence referendum campaign. These pieces are aimed at undecided voters and soft no voters. In this first piece I look at why Scotland is justified in seeking another independence referendum.

Scotland stands at a crossroads in its history. Soon, the people of Scotland will be asked to choose what sort of country they want this to be, even though the British government is doing its damnedest to try to prevent the Scottish people from asking themselves about Scotland’s future. This refusal by itself raises an important question, just what sort of union is it where one of the smaller partners is effectively blocked from even asking itself about its role within that union because a government elected by the largest partner says no.

The truth is that if a British Prime Minister that Scotland didn’t vote for imposes a veto on Scotland’s desire to ask itself an important question about Scotland, and vetoes Scotland from having a national conversation with itself, we are justified in asking whether there is any union left at all.

In 2014 Scotland had a vote on its place within the UK, and voted against independence. The rhetoric of some politicians at the time was that the referendum was a once in a generation opportunity, but the truth is that in a democracy no politician can bind the electorate in perpetuity. Voters have an absolute right to change their minds, especially if circumstances change. Circumstances have changed drastically since 2014 and that is why the voters of Scotland chose in the recent Scottish election to give a large majority to parties promising to hold another referendum within the five year term of this Holyrood parliament.

The 2014 vote was not a blank cheque to Westminster to do with Scotland what it pleased in perpetuity, it was conditional upon the promises and commitments that the anti-independence parties had made to Scotland in order to secure their desired result. One of the most important of those commitments was that the only way that Scotland could remain a part of the EU was by voting against independence. So Scotland voted against independence, and well, we are where we are. Scotland is being told by a Conservative government in Westminster that it must suck Brexit up, even though Scotland voted to remain a part of the EU by a considerably larger margin than it voted to remain a part of the UK.

The Tories call themselves the party of the union, but they act as the party of British centralism. That was fine for decades, because unionism in Scotland rested upon the comforting myth that Scotland was a voluntary equal partner in the United Kingdom. That was, and is, the defining belief of Scottish Unionism. Scotland, they tell everyone else and themselves, is not a colony. Scotland was an enthusiastic participant in the British Empire. Scotland, they assert, was never a possession of the Empire but rather a partner in doing the possessing.

Unfortunately, this is not the understanding of the union that is current amongst the Anglocentric British establishment which Boris Johnson’s government embodies. Their belief is that the UK is simply a euphemism for Greater England. Their UK consists of England and those lesser nations which have been compelled by one means or another to throw their lot in with England.

When there was an Empire to exploit, different Scottish and English understandings of the union were unquestioned and unexamined. After the dissolution of the Empire the disconnection could easily be ignored. For much of the 20th century there was no Scottish Parliament to articulate Scotland’s political sense of itself. Scotland, like England, alternated between voting Labour and voting Conservative. As recently as the 1950s Scotland was fertile territory for the Tories. The cracks only started to appear after the demand for Scottish self government arose in the latter part of the 20th century, and voting patterns in Scotland began to diverge from those in England. The cracks only grew wider after Tony Blair’s government introduced an assymetric form of devolution.

The cracks grew wider still during the independence referendum and its aftermath, when the parties forming the Better Together campaign turned their back on the Vow and complacently thought that the No vote meant a return to business as usual. Scotland was back in its box, and could be ignored once again. But the independence movement born during the referendum campaign ensured that the lid of the box was kept loose. Scotland was not going to return meekly to the union flag branded shortbread tin.

In order to keep Scotland tied to Westminster, we were told that it was only because of the UK that we were a part of the EU. The message that leaving the UK meant leaving the EU was central to the Better Together campaign. Scots were taught that their country was poor, semi-bankrupt, and dependent on the largesse of a kind and benevolent UK. But this only provoked an unexpected reaction in England, when England started to grow resentful at what it saw as Scottish privilege that English voters were being told they paid for, privileges which were being lavished on ungrateful Scots.

All this simmering discontent with the union metaphorically exploded with Brexit. The Conservatives brought about a referendum on EU membership in order to tackle internal Tory disputes between the Europhile and Europhobe wings of that party. After a defeat in the EU referendum which the then Prime Minister David Cameron had neither expected nor prepared for, his successors continued to treat Brexit as an internal matter for the Conservative party.

Despite the fact that the vote to leave won only a very narrow victory, Theresa May set out to placate the extreme europhobes on her back benches. She set out entirely unnecessary red lines, and the definitions of soft and hard Brexit were moved ever further in one direction, in the direction of right wing Brextremism and ever further away from what Scotland could accept. This was only exacerbated after Theresa May lost her majority in the General Election she had promised not to call. She continued as though nothing had changed. The only difference was that now she required the support of the DUP.

Heavily remain voting Scotland was ignored, along with all the other remain voters in the UK. The proposal from the Scottish Government for a differential treatment of Scotland along with Northern Ireland never even got a reply. The Conservatives had never been happy with devolution, and leapt upon Brexit as their opportunity to recentralise the UK. The Brexit vote gave them a convenient excuse to undermine the devolution settlement and grab devolved powers for Westminster, all the while mendaciously claiming that they were giving Holyrood more powers.

What really happened was this. When devolution was established, the new Scottish Parliament was given control of all powers of government except for those which were explicitly to be reserved to Westminster – such as broadcasting, international relations, defence, the social security system, most tax powers, the constitution, etc. All other powers were devolved. However as a part of the EU, a number of these functions were exercised by EU institutions. In essence, these powers were still Scotland’s, but they were being held in trust for Scotland by the EU. After Brexit, Westminster took it upon itself to decide unilaterally which of these powers it was keeping for itself, and which it would allow Holyrood to keep. And then David Mundell told us that we had no grounds for complaint because Holyrood was getting extra powers.

Thanks to the Tories and the consistent way in which they have placed the interests of their party before the interests of Scotland and before the interests of the UK, the devolution settlement has been undermined, and Scotland faced the prospect of crashing out of the EU without a deal, powerless to influence events. The threadbare deal which was eventually cobbled together was devised with no input from the Scottish government. It’s a deal which didn’t even pay lip service to taking Scottish interests into account.

As a direct result, the UK is under immense strain. On the one hand the Tories have created an England which is resentful of what it sees as Scottish privilege, and whose Brexit supporters would prefer to see Scotland go than to give up on Brexit. On the other hand the Tories have created a Scotland which is resentful because it has been wrenched out of the EU even though the Conservatives told Scotland that the only way to remain in the EU was to vote against independence.

On top of all this, Scotland is seeing its precious devolution settlement being unilaterally undermined and traduced by a Conservative government Scotland didn’t vote for, even though the entire point of devolution in the first place was to provide Scotland from the depredations of Conservative governments Scotland didn’t vote for ,such as the painful and bitter experience of the Thatcher era. Devolution is failing to protect Scotland. No one can still have confidence that the devolution settlement will be able to continue in its current form in a centralising post-Brexit Britain.

All this is the creation of the Conservative party. They did this. This is their doing. In pursuit of their own short term party interests the Tories dug into the very core of the union between Scotland and the rest of the UK and destroyed its foundations. The cracks are wide and growing ever wider. The chasm between the Scottish and English conceptions of what this so-called union means cannot be papered over with some union flag posters and a spot of rebranding. It won’t be bridged by blaming the SNP and the Scottish independence movement. The tensions that the Conservatives have selfishly created can only be resolved with a great democratic event – a second Scottish independence referendum.

In order to counter their own destruction of the foundations of the Union, the Conservative government has embarked upon what is in effect nothing more than an advertising campaign. It’s too little and too late. A cosmetic exercise by the Tories won’t succeed in propping up an edifice which they themselves have brought to the point of collapse. You don’t save a structurally unsound building with a lick of paint and some new union flag themed wallpaper. It’s too late to save the UK. The Tories have exposed its true nature. They are the unwitting midwives of Scottish independence. Because of the actions of the Conservatives themselves, there’s now far too many rebellious Scots to shush.

The UK that Scotland is a part of is not the UK that Scotland was told it could be a part of in 2014. That is why Scotland voted for a large majority of pro-independence MSPs in the recent election, elected with a mandate for another referendum during this Parliamentary term. Scotland has an absolute democratic right to ask itself in a referendum if it still wants to be a part of a UK which is fundamentally different from the UK we thought we were getting in 2014.

NEW MODERATION POLICY

In the wake of recent events I am determined that this site will not become a home for bigots and conspiracy theorists. They will not be welcome here. Moderation is the most stressful part of running a blog, but this site is going to continue to make the positive case for independence. With this in mind as of today a new moderation policy is in force.

Anyone who attempts to use this site to post hatred, bigotry, or conspiracy theories will be banned. If you attempt to insult and abuse anyone you will be banned. This site has a zero-toleration policy for homophobia, transphobia, racism, and misogyny. Failure to respect this will result in a ban.

If you intend to spend the next four years undermining the SNP, the Scottish Government and the pro-independence parties that the great majority of independence supporters voted for, you can do so somewhere else, because you’re not going to do it here. The reminder that has regularly appeared on this site is not a serving suggestion. It will be rigorously enforced. If you don’t like this rule – there is a small x at the top right of your screen. Click it, close this page and go elsewhere.

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 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 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.

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Independence for recovery

Nicola Sturgeon has been re-elected by MSPs as the First Minister of Scotland for another five years. Given the SNP’s victory in the recent elections, her re-election was always something of a formality. Today she announced her new cabinet.

In about one year’s time Nicola Sturgeon will overtake Alex Salmond as the longest-serving First Minister since the introduction of devolution, but in her acceptance speech after being re-elected as First Minister she also clearly signalled that she wants to be the last First Minister of a devolved Scottish administration. She used the occasion to reiterate that her government had been elected with a clear mandate to deliver an independence referendum during the term of this Parliament. However she also stressed that she would exercise that mandate “with responsibility, humility, and only when the crisis of Covid has passed.”

There are two different issues when it comes to discussion about the Scottish Government’s preferred timing for another referendum. Firstly there’s getting out of the immediate covid crisis, and secondly there is Scotland’s recovery from that crisis. These are quite different and distinct, although many people conflate the two. However it’s important not to lose sight of the vital distinction between them. To use an analogy from my own recent bout of serious illness, in the immediate aftermath of the stroke I suffered, I was experiencing a health crisis. There was a high risk of suffering another stroke and I had to be hospitalised until medical professionals could be sure that my condition had stabilised. It was only after they could be certain of this that I was allowed to go home whereupon the focus became long term recovery from the stroke.

Applying this to political considerations about the timing of another independence referendum means that the Scottish Government does not wish to press for a second referendum while there remains a significant risk that covid infections could surge out of control, leading to a significant rise in cases requiring hospital treatment or cases severe enough to lead to death. This possibility means that there is a fear that the NHS could be overwhelmed and that our health services might not be able to cope. That’s the definition of a crisis, and it’s the situation we remain in for the time being.

It’s because the primary duty of the Scottish Government is to minimise this risk that there must be restrictions on people’s right to travel and to associate freely. While these restrictions remain in place it’s extremely difficult to conduct a normal political campaign. It’s even more difficult to conduct a campaign which is reliant on the kind of face to face mass participation and street campaigning which characterised the first independence referendum in 2014.

As long as we remain in this crisis situation it is unwise to press for another independence referendum. Many independence supporters are deeply unhappy about this, claiming it as evidence that the SNP leadership “doesn’t really want” another referendum. They are partially right – but what the SNP leadership doesn’t really want is a referendum which the independence movement has to fight with one hand tied behind its back and where an important strategic advantage has been conceded to those opposed to independence. After all, the point of the exercise here is not simply to secure another independence referendum. The point is to win it.

The experience of the recent election is a lesson to learn from. Alba party supporters complain that one reason their party performed so poorly was that it was sidelined and marginalised by the media and so it struggled to get its message and policies across. They have a point. However we all know that the media in Scotland is overwhelmingly opposed to independence and always seeks to amplify anti-independence voices at the expense of those in favour. The fact it behaves this way should come as no surprise. The anti-independence bias of the Scottish media has to be priced in to any independence referendum campaign if it hopes to be successful. The Scottish media will do exactly the same in a future independence referendum campaign. Any independence campaign which bases its chances on getting a fair hearing from the traditional Scottish media is a campaign that’s going to lose.

Alba’s experience ought to teach us that we cannot rely on digital and online campaigning. It’s far too easy to become trapped in a social media echo chamber and to fail to break through to the wider public. Since we cannot rely on getting a fair hearing from the traditional media and social media campaigns are not sufficient by themselves, this makes it all the more important for a successful independence referendum campaign to be able to deploy the kind of face to face “town hall” and community based campaigning which proved so effective in boosting the pro-independence vote in 2014. This is precisely the kind of campaigning that is most negatively affected by the lockdown restrictions on gathering and social interactions which must remain in force as long as the country is dealing with the crisis of the pandemic.

Once Scotland emerges from the crisis phase and starts to move into the recovery phase, that’s the time to hold another referendum. It is not a question of referendum or recovery, it’s a matter of independence for recovery. However we will only be able to make those arguments effectively once we have got out of the immediate crisis. Like most independence supporters I want independence yesterday. I want another independence referendum as soon as possible. I do not want Scotland to have to spend one single day longer than it absolutely has to under the rule of this malignant Conservative government. But I don’t want another independence referendum for its own sake, I want one which gives us the best possible chance of winning.

Much as many independence supporters dislike the fact, there are still large numbers of people in this country who are not convinced that independence is the way ahead. Not all of them are diehard unionists. Many of them could be amenable to persuasion, but only if we have an independence referendum campaign which allows us to reach them in order to persuade them. That’s the kind of referendum campaign we are going to be contesting at some point over the next couple of years, and that’s the kind of referendum campaign which is going to be victorious.

NEW MODERATION POLICY

In the wake of recent events I am determined that this site will not become a home for bigots and conspiracy theorists. They will not be welcome here. Moderation is the most stressful part of running a blog, but this site is going to continue to make the positive case for independence. With this in mind as of today a new moderation policy is in force.

Anyone who attempts to use this site to post hatred, bigotry, or conspiracy theories will be banned. If you attempt to insult and abuse anyone you will be banned. This site has a zero-toleration policy for homophobia, transphobia, racism, and misogyny. Failure to respect this will result in a ban.

If you intend to spend the next four years undermining the SNP, the Scottish Government and the pro-independence parties that the great majority of independence supporters voted for, you can do so somewhere else, because you’re not going to do it here. The reminder that has regularly appeared on this site is not a serving suggestion. It will be rigorously enforced. If you don’t like this rule – there is a small x at the top right of your screen. Click it, close this page and go elsewhere.

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 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 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.

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The entitlement of British nationalism

For the second time in the space of a few months, the centre of Scotland’s largest city was taken over by a horde of drunken aggressive men, destroying public property and attacking the police, passers by, and one another, and leaving a trail of destruction and chaos in their wake. Up to 15,000 Rangers fans congregated in the city in order to celebrate their team’s victory in the league. They ignored the official guidance prohibiting gathering in large groups. Few wore face coverings and there was little attempt at social distancing. The fact that Glasgow is perched precariously on the verge of a third wave of the virus and this mass gathering could have acted as a super-spreader event did not factor into the selfish calculations of those present. All that these entitled men (and they were overwhelmingly men) cared about was their own god-given absolute right to act as they pleased without caring about the consequences.

It was notable that those Conservative politicians who had been quick to condemn last week’s protest against the Home Office raid in Kenmure Street were silent when it came to speaking out against the Union flag bedecked yob violence which scarred Glasgow at the weekend. However the day before the violence the Tory MSP Murdo Fraser sought to draw a false equivalence between the Pollokshields protest and the anticipated “celebration” due that weekend. This was crass even by Murdo’s standards. A peaceful community protest is not remotely comparable to a drunken violent rampage by football hooligans. The residents of Kenmure Street did not choose for a Home Office van to descend on their street and attempt to detain and deport two of their neighbours. They were reacting in the only way possible to an unwanted event which had been visited upon them. There was no other way to prevent their neighbours’ deportation. Urgent and immediate action was vital. It is shameful, as some Conservative and British nationalist apologists have done, to attempt to draw a moral equivalence between this and drunken yobs going on a violent rampage as they assert their privilege and entitlement.

The Rangers fans in Glasgow at the weekend were attacking police officers, setting off dangerous fireworks, fighting with each other, throwing objects around, destroying public property, smashing bottles and urinating in the street. The socially distanced protestors at the marches or those responding to the attempted deportation did not do any of this. They took steps to act responsibly and to ensure that those not involved were not negatively impacted. The hooligans in George Square made a point of causing distress, upset and harm to other people.

However Rangers fans did not need to congregate in their thousands in the streets in order to celebrate their team’s victory. Far less did they need to embark upon a violent and destructive rampage while chanting sectarian hate-filled songs. If they had just wanted to celebrate, they could have celebrated at home and while obeying lockdown restrictions in the exact same way that the rest of us have been forced to celebrate important and significant life events during the course of this pandemic.

But for many of those present this wasn’t about celebration, it was something far more primitive, it was a territorial assertion of ownership. Those union flags were British nationalists telling us all that they own this city, that they own these streets. The violent and aggressive gathering was a reflection of the deep sense of entitlement of British nationalism. When you assert that “We are the people” you are implying that others are not part of “the people”, that they are somehow alien and less deserving of rights and recognition. When you accompany that with sectarian anti -catholic songs, it’s clear that you are asserting that Scots with an Irish catholic heritage are not properly Scottish at all.

However there are also institutional failures at play here. Police Scotland seemed to have been ill-prepared for disturbances which could have been predicted based upon the behaviour of some Rangers fans in March. The force stands accused of double standards, being markedly more tolerant of the misbehaviour of right wing thugs and Rangers fans waving union flags than it was of socially distanced Black Lives Matter protestors. Such double standards merely reinforce the sense of entitlement of those running riot and tells them that their bad behaviour will be indulged.

The football authorities must also take responsibility. The only way that fans will learn to behave is when they realise that their poor behaviour has negative consequences for their club. The SFA must apply severe sanctions to a club after its supporters have behaved the way some Rangers fans behaved over the weekend. The SFA has described the events of the weekend as an abomination not a celebration. But will they give meaning to their words?

The best way to ensure that this sort if thing does not happen again is for fans to be self-policing but that will only happen when fans see that their club will have to pay a heavy price when groups of fans misbehave. These sanctions should include the club being stripped of titles and trophies, clubs being forced to play matches behind closed doors, the loss of points, and in severe cases instant relegation. Fans will continue to misbehave if they think that the worst that will happen is that their club gets a slap on the wrist. I don’t care for football, I have no interest in league titles or trophies.  I have no skin in this game, but the behaviour of some Rangers fans over this weekend was egregious enough that the club should be stripped of the title whose win was being “celebrated”. Unfortunately that’s unlikely to happen. We’ll get some platitudes and nothing meaningful will happen, exactly the same as the last time and all the times before that.

We have come to accept it as normal in Glasgow that anti-catholic bigotry is freely displayed on our streets. There’s nothing normal about it at all. They call themselves Loyalists but they are not loyal to the rule of law or to standards of common decency. The only thing that they are loyal to is what they perceive as their absolute right to impose themselves on the rest of us. And that is British nationalism in a nutshell. British nationalists in Scotland rail against the “divisiveness” of another independence referendum but turn a blind eye to the sectarian divisions fostered by some of their own supporters.

NEW MODERATION POLICY

In the wake of recent events I am determined that this site will not become a home for bigots and conspiracy theorists. They will not be welcome here. Moderation is the most stressful part of running a blog, but this site is going to continue to make the positive case for independence. With this in mind as of today a new moderation policy is in force.

Anyone who attempts to use this site to post hatred, bigotry, or conspiracy theories will be banned. If you attempt to insult and abuse anyone you will be banned. This site has a zero-toleration policy for homophobia, transphobia, racism, and misogyny. Failure to respect this will result in a ban.

If you intend to spend the next four years undermining the SNP, the Scottish Government and the pro-independence parties that the great majority of independence supporters voted for, you can do so somewhere else, because you’re not going to do it here. The reminder that has regularly appeared on this site is not a serving suggestion. It will be rigorously enforced. If you don’t like this rule – there is a small x at the top right of your screen. Click it, close this page and go elsewhere.

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 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 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.

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The Westminster shaped sieve

It was always predictable that the so-called Indian variant of the coronavirus was going to enter the UK. It’s called the Indian variant because it was first identified in India. There are now fears that this new variant will cause a “third wave” resulting in an increase in hospitalisations and the suspension of the much anticipated loosening of lockdown restrictions.

One question that many have is how new variants of the virus arise. This is an example of evolution in action. So first, a quick lesson in viruses.

A virus is only arguably alive. To simplify things considerably, a virus is a stretch of DNA and an associated protein coating. A virus cannot reproduce by itself. Instead , the coronavirus, like other viruses, hijacks the mechanisms of the cells in the body of an infected host and forces those cells to make copies of the virus. Typically during the course of an infection many millions of copies of the virus will be churned out. Every time the virus is copied there is a chance of an error taking place in the copying process and the virus not being copied correctly. The overwhelming majority of times, the virus is copied correctly, however because so many copies of the virus are made during the course of a typical infection, there’s a high probability that some faulty copies will be created.

Most of these faulty copies (which are called mutations) will be less effective at doing the virus’s two jobs of hijacking cells in the body and of being transmitted from one host body to another. These mutations will soon die out. Many other mutations will not be any better or worse at these jobs. However a small minority of these faulty copies will be more effective at hijacking body cells in the infected person and more effective at being transmitted from one person to another. These mutations have a competitive advantage over other less effective variants, and will preferentially spread. This is what happened with the so-called Kent variant which is now the dominant strain of the virus in the UK. This variant was more effective at being transmitted than the variants existing at the time, so eventually it crowded out the others.

Because millions upon millions of copies of the virus are made in each one of the millions of people who have become infected, new virus mutations are constantly being produced. There is concern that eventually one of these virus mutations might cause more serious illness or that it could be resistant to the vaccines currently in use.

New variants of the virus crop up constantly. The more restrictions there are on foreign travel, the easier it is to keep novel and potentially risky variants out of the country. Of course this must be balanced against people’s right to travel freely. It seems that in reaching a decision on this, the Scottish Government has given more weight to public health considerations than the Conservatives at Westminster, who appear to put more weight on the commercial interests of the travel and transport industries. Since the Scottish Government has no control over foreign borders, in this respect Scotland is at the mercy of UK government decisions which can undermine decisions made by the Scottish Government. The UK government delayed putting India on the red list of countries for over three weeks after concerns were raised about the spread of a new variant of concern there. Travellers arriving in the UK from India were allowed to self isolate at home instead of having to go into supervised hotel based quarantine.

The good news is that there is no evidence that this new Indian variant is resistant to the vaccines that we currently have. Neither is there any evidence to suggest that this new variant causes more serious illness in those it infects. The other good news is that if a vaccine resistant variant was ever to arise, scientists would not have to go back to square one and develop an entirely new armoury of vaccines from scratch. It should be possible to “tweak” existing vaccines so that they’d be effective against a resistant strain.

However there is concern that this new Indian variant may be more effective at being transmitted from one person to another, although it’s not yet clear just how more effective it might be. If it’s more effective at being transmitted this means that the new variant is more likely to infect people and to cause more cases of serious illness simply because there are more people who are being infected. If the virus is able to infect more people more rapidly and to reach more people who are vulnerable to serious illness, the incidence of serious illness increases even though the variant does not in itself cause a more serious illness. That could cause a significant rise in hospitalisations among those who have not yet been vaccinated. This possibility is what alarms Scottish public health authorities and has led to the loosening of lockdown restrictions being paused in Glasgow.

The big problem that the Scottish Government faces is that it has to fight the virus with one hand tied behind its back. Scotland is in the position of trying to bail out a leaky boat with a Westminster shaped sieve. Decisions made in Scotland can all too easily be undermined by decisions made at Westminster.

Without control over international borders, Scotland was left in the ridiculous position of demanding hotel-based quarantine for the tiny number of international travellers who flew directly into Scotland from “red list” countries, but the far larger number of travellers who arrived in the UK-Ireland common travel area from abroad but whose flights first took them to England or Dublin where they then caught connecting Scotland were able to organise their own unsupervised quarantine at home. The UK Government continued to allow travel from India even after it became clear that the situation in the country was spiralling out of control.

It is not unreasonable to assume that if the far stricter supervised hotel based quarantine had applied universally to everyone arriving in Scotland there could have been a chance that the entry of the new variant could have been prevented and we might not now be in the position of having to delay Glasgow’s exit from lockdown amidst concerns that the new variant of the virus is getting a foothold in parts of the city. But that’s hypothetical. We are where we are, more concerning is that even though there is clear evidence of community transmission of the new variant in parts of England, and concerns are being raised about a possible third wave, Johnson is not pausing the loosening of lockdown restrictions in England. A surge in infections in England will have an inevitable knock on effect in Scotland.

Hopefully this new variant will not prove to be markedly more efficient at transmission but if it is, and there is a third wave, it will once again highlight how Scotland’s efforts to contain and control the pandemic are being undermined by a Conservative government which prioritises financial and economic concerns above public health.

NEW MODERATION POLICY

In the wake of recent events I am determined that this site will not become a home for bigots and conspiracy theorists. They will not be welcome here. Moderation is the most stressful part of running a blog, but this site is going to continue to make the positive case for independence. With this in mind as of today a new moderation policy is in force.

Anyone who attempts to use this site to post hatred, bigotry, or conspiracy theories will be banned. If you attempt to insult and abuse anyone you will be banned. This site has a zero-toleration policy for homophobia, transphobia, racism, and misogyny. Failure to respect this will result in a ban.

If you intend to spend the next four years undermining the SNP, the Scottish Government and the pro-independence parties that the great majority of independence supporters voted for, you can do so somewhere else, because you’re not going to do it here. The reminder that has regularly appeared on this site is not a serving suggestion. It will be rigorously enforced. If you don’t like this rule – there is a small x at the top right of your screen. Click it, close this page and go elsewhere.

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 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 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.

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The C-word

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now that the dust has settled

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Getting back on the horse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Stepping back from the fray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The suspicious case of the vanishing blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

However nothing ever truly disappears from the internet, and you can still see an archived version of the original article here:
http://web.archive.org/web/20210330073808/https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/scottish-independence-cost/

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

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

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

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

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

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A significant force or RISE 2.0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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