One Year On: how to lead from behind

_82862783_ap_black“Politicians argue that only if they are in power will decisions be the right ones, and thus we must suffer tedious rounds of facile political argument over enduring and deep-seated problems, when closer analysis of these problems leads to the more disturbing conclusion that no politician and no government … … is able to solve them. Somehow we know this. Frustration with conventional politics is rising everywhere, depressing voter turnout and fuelling popular anger. Politicians too can sense the mood, but are unable to offer any prescription except more of the same politics, perhaps spiced with a dangerous and hollow populism.”
– Carne Ross: ‘The Leaderless Revolution’ (2011)

In this season of mellow fruitfulness there has bee a widespread desire in broadcast, print and social media, and among politicians, to reflect on the Referendum, one year on. It appears, however, that within the impenetrable, unrelenting anger of Unionism that still seems to be trying to turn democratic victory into bitter, sour and resentful defeat (what on earth do they have to be so angry and resentful about? It seems the mere defeat of an opponent is not enough, only extinction will do): relatively little, or indeed nothing at all has been learned from the last twelve months of politics; certainly in the reflections emanating from the so-called ‘opinion-formers’ in London, in Westminster or more generally representing a near-catatonic Unionism in Scotland.

The rout of Scottish Labour in the General Election (one MP), the collapse of the LibDems (one MP) and the obvious, endless, complete and utter irrelevance of the Conservative Party (one MP, yet again) have not led to a transformation in the politics of any of these futile political parties, but merely, if bizarrely, has produced a singularly rebarbative Unionist ‘anti-strategy’: an obtuse insistence, doggedly to stick to their threadbare, rejected politics and their unwholesome, destructive ideologies in the face of the wholesale defeat of their Westminster parliamentary candidates. This is a defeat-sodden ‘solution’ all three obey uniformly, as if still prisoners of the disciplinary shackles of Better Together’s essential political inanity.

All three Unionist parties persist in hysterically attacking the SNP for its commitment to achieving independence through a referendum in some ‘sooner-or-later’ future; which is after all the SNP’s ‘raison d’etre’ (and in principle at least, if not execution, is presumably non-negotiable for its leader); and in spite of the fact that this attack has had no impact on broad and strong public support for the SNP, or had any effect on support for independence itself, which indeed continues to increase momentum in closely monitored polls of public opinion.

The reasons for this Unionist political failure are not hard to find. It is an indictment of Unionism that in spite of the referendum victory it quickly became clear that the Union had managed the near impossible; both to win and to fail. It managed to win, but not to win the decisive political destruction of the SNP it had assumed was its political entitlement, and in the process of winning deftly turned the result into a Pyrrhic victory, with sufficient devastating effect, comprehensively to demoralise itself: no doubt as a direct product of Better Together’s own campaign; which, through a hapless mixture of condescending complacency, ill-conceived hubris, squandered opportunities and bungled politics ensured an electoral death-sentence for Labour, without a single benefit for either Conservatives or LibDems. The emptiness of Unionism and the mean-spirited nature of its politics shocked the Scottish people, who began to see a different character to the Union to that which they had taken for granted for generations.

Three years ago it is doubtful if even Alex Salmond believed there was more than 30% support for independence when he announced the historic event (hence the need for a two year campaign and more than a pinch of optimism); but support was turned into 45% of a record turnout by 18th September, and without wishing to underplay the extraordinary and uplifting engagement in politics by the Scottish people to reinvigorate the polity (and which has been reviewed in depth by many other writers), in no small measure was achieved through the ineptitude of Unionism. Popular support for independence is now still closer to 50%, helped by David Cameron’s almost unique capacity for serial-blundering over the Union.

The Unionists’ campaign pre and post referendum has revealed, quite extraordinarily, that the Unionists understood little either about the nature of Scotland or even the nature of the Union (and notably this applied to Scots politicians, who offered only a rich embarrassment of mediocrity throughout), a gap in their knowledge that they conveyed with typical grudging resentment and brazen inarticulacy to the Scottish people. It is the Unionists, then and now, that are clearly unable or unwilling to find or express a convincing, still less inspiring argument for the Union. All they can ever muster is the raised voice, the dismissive assertion, and when both swiftly fail, the resort to bad temper. It is a recipe for electoral wipe-out they appear too witless to resist. They are indeed inexorably pushing the Scottish people towards independence as if they, the Unionists, were the real nationalists; which of course (ideologically) they are.

It is astonishing that Unionist politicians have failed the Union so badly, and failed the Scottish people, who have left enough clues for an alternative constitutional strategy to independence over the last three years. Here is the root of the problem, for the Union is being defended by the most thoroughly inept, incompetent, hapless generation of Unionist politicians and apologists in three hundred years. We may wonder what the Union’s key Scottish architect, William Carstares, would have made of the present Unionists three hundred years later? Not much, I hazard.

Instead of paying attention; listening to the Scottish people rather than lecturing them, Unionism and Unionists chose instead consistently to rebuff, ignore or dismiss the clear desire among Scots expressed through the Long Campaign of the Referendum for Reform of the Union, through a new Union settlement framed in terms of full-blown Federalism or Devo Max. This demand for Devo Max was not SNP policy, and it was articulated in outline only, but however incomplete it expressed the aspirations of the majority of Scottish opinion; ahead of the curve, ordinary Scots struggled to assert the need radically to reform both politics and constitution in Britain. Unionists with an ounce of imagination, a little judgment, even less confidence and the smallest tincture of wisdom would have, could have created a vision for a new Union Settlement out of such an obvious opportunity presented to them; an alternative moreover that the SNP dare not touch. But Unionism saw it all not as an opportunity, but a threat; above all to them, to their parties, to their politics. Westminster, the Union, was simply not ‘up to’ the task set by the Scottish people; there was no vision. They failed the critical examination set by the people.

The Devo Max question merges into the referendum “second question” issue, which has now been revisited by David Torrance (‘The Independent’:17th September, 2015):

“The Prime Minister hasn’t escaped his share of the blame. Although his “red line” that the referendum comprise only one question was viewed as a triumph at the time, it looks shortsighted in retrospect. Had he embraced Salmond’s offer of a “second” question on “more powers” some believe, with good reason, the independence option would have been crushed beneath a swarm of voters embracing a constitutional Third Way.”

Torrance claims that it is “easy to be wise after the event”; and this is true, not least of David Torrance, who wrote this about David Cameron’s referendum tactics (Newsnet Scotland: 15th October, 2012):

“From the UK Government’s perspective it has achieved what its strategists always called the “main prize”, in other words a single referendum question.”

Torrance was not notably critical of the PM in 2012, although he was vigorously (if over-theatrically) advocating a second question in ‘the Scottish Review’ 6th October, 2011 with this illuminating if clumsily transcribed opening sentence: “As Shakespeare nearly wrote in Hamlet, ‘more relative than this, the second question’s the thing’”. It isn’t as if Torrance didn’t know. This is perhaps the point, Unionism manages a certain facility of argument, but ‘at the touch’ are given to taking the easy, wrong-headed, quick (cheap?) ’fix’ that fixes nothing; rather than working the hard yards for secure achievement. This glib vacillation and cheap opportunism has become the central tenet of Unionism. For the avoidance of doubt the second question was the obvious, best (but not certain) strategy for Unionism from the beginning; the Scottish people presented it on a plate for Unionists to run with, but as Torrance finally notices four years after his first presentation of the case, he concludes “it might already be too late.” And there is the irresolute, continuing weakness of Unionism, neatly packaged for all to see.

Devo Max as a broad concept, provided a small but tangible, usable pointer of hope and reform to rescue Britain from the wreckage of Westminster’s failed politics; something for the Union to make its own and save itself, which was free for Unionism exclusively to embrace; to use, to exploit, develop and shape; a credible alternative to independence for many Scots to consider. But Unionists preferred to spurn the whole idea and the Scottish people with it; in order, Unionists foolishly believed, to win the referendum decisively, rout the SNP once-and-for-all, return to the British political ‘status quo ante’ without actually changing anything; just call out the Labour voters to do the job for them (a campaign funded by the Tories), and then the Unionist politicians could return to the safe haven (especially from ‘the people’), the reassuring privacy, centralism and exclusivity of insider-Westminster ’business-as-usual’; and Unionists could achieve it all by ignoring the wishes of the Scottish people (they are still doing so – it seems that every single amendment presented by the SNP MPs now overwhelmingly representing Scotland in the debate over further powers in Westminster has been rejected by the Government; and David Cameron claims he does not understand the ‘precise’ detail of SNP objections to the outcome of the Bill; perhaps the UK government could point to the amendment[s] it has accepted?) and with this routine, casual irresponsibility the Unionists are slowly shredding the loyalty of Scottish people to the Union.

Unionists make much of the ‘tax-powers’ being devolved to Holyrood; with Income Tax as the seductive ‘jewel in the crown’. It isn’t: rather Income Tax has been set-up as a stand-alone poison chalice; income tax rates have rarely been varied in the UK in recent years because the tax is politically toxic; the devolution of Income Tax to Holyrood almost alone among the suite of headline taxes to which UK governments may resort (a ‘tall poppy’), is intended to induce its use by Holyrood in isolation, and with luck sink the SNP Government; and, as presented in this proposal, is certainly not intended to enhance the government of Scotland. This is the way Unionist politics is routinely conducted in the UK. It has little to do with good governance.

The Unionists have done irreparable damage to their own cause. Scots understand now their expected place in the Union is as follows; either to be taken for granted, or to be grudged; to be quietly grateful for ‘hand-outs’, for Scots to see their country’s self-respect dismissed or demeaned with graceless facility (especially by Unionists) as part of the hierarchy of what is really important in Westminster politics, and that Scotland itself can look forward to a future in which it is slowly marginalised, impoverished, its population ageing and consequentially its economy flatlining; and finally no doubt in the ‘longue duree’ a discreet historic ambition in Westminster may be won cheaply; Scotland will finally be extinguished for the glorification of a London-centric Lesser Britain.

Notice that the SNP has not promised a referendum in its latest announcements, merely sketched scenarios. The SNP is cautious, as befits the delicate balance of opinion. Why then do Unionists not just claim the victory they won, and build something both new and constructive; but instead shrilly insist on a “once in a generation” command for the opposition effectively to give up? After all Unionism won. Unionism’s response as the ‘winners’ should be decisive, a winner’s riposte to the SNP’s alleged hopes for a second referendum soon in the following terms; if the SNP want another referendum, ‘bring it on’. Even now the SNP would be reluctant to pick up the gauntlet; for the SNP is quite capable of calculating the odds, and does not wish to fight a second referendum, but to win a second referendum; and the SNP knows that may require more than a short-term (next election) political perspective. This is the message contained in Nicola Sturgeon’s recent speech, not the Unionist obsession with future, unknowable referendum dates.

The reason the Unionists continue to repeat the “once in a generation” mantra is quite simple. They are no longer sure that they can win. Anger, presumption and entitlement is now replaced by fear; they are no longer certain that the Scottish people are committed to the Union in the same way it could be taken for granted in the 19th and 20th centuries. In 2014 they expected a decisive 70/30, or perhaps 60/40 victory at worst, and now they know they had (have?) a small and probably shrinking majority, if any majority at all. And what is responsible for that predicament? Unionism itself.

For a probable significant proportion of Scots the Referendum and the General Election were not and are not a matter of devolution, or of independence, but events through which they sought profound reform and modernisation of the Union, fit for the 21st century. The Union requires to change, and change now; but the Unionists are incapable of embracing it. They are paralysed by the inadequacy of their ideology and by the transformation in Scotland’s politics that they did not expect and cannot accept. Their predicament would be absurd, if it was not serious.

Of course the SNP understand something the Unionists either do not understand, or perhaps believe is unimportant. The SNP is not the leader of this political movement for constitutional change and knows it; it is led rather by the Scottish people, and the SNP recognise the real nature of the relationship, and of course this adroit deference to ‘the people’ is part of its ideology. This is what makes Nicola Sturgeon choose her words carefully on the matter, and I will speculate, illuminates what is meant when she critically observes that the future “depends as much on what you (David Cameron) do as what we do”. Does David Cameron believe in the Union?

It seems either he doesn’t believe in it, or he doesn’t understand politics; which is perhaps a misfortune in a Unionist Prime Minister.

Comments (21)

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  1. JBS says:

    Thanks, John S, a timely reminder. Unionism hasn’t gone away, it remains the real opposition for supporters of Scottish independence. And there is still considerable support for the Labour Party in Scotland, as May’s GE results demonstrated. I dare say that Scottish independence supporters are not going to forget in a hurry that the Labour Party stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the Tories and the LibDems as part of Better Together, and that it was an enthusiastic participant in Project Fear.

  2. Born Optimist says:

    Continental countries, regardless of how successful they might be, are rarely perceived as viable models for the UK and reported as such by the UK media. Even the Republic of Ireland, again across the sea, is rarely considered by the layperson/average voter as offering examples of good government/economic management etc. They are all perceived as distant and irrelevant.

    Scotland, as an independent country, would be on the doorstep of rUK, and residents of northern England at least would become aware of alternative ways of managing/encouraging economic development and the management of social welfare.

    It therefore seems to me, in a nutshell, that what Unionist politicians fear most is not just an independent Scotland, but a ‘living, breathing’ alternative society whose merits (and I trust there would be some) would soon become patently obvious to others living in the more populous areas of the British Isles. That, I think, is a greater danger to the British Establishment than Scotland simply seceding from the Union as an awareness of alternatives fosters an unwillingness to simply accept the status quo unless there is good reason for doing so.

    Thanks to the independence campaign many Scots citizens are now in the fortunate and unfortunate position of perceiving the limitations of the current Union but frustrated in their attempts to change it for the better. Independence seems the only means of progression to many, and their number will undoubtedly grow if Westminster fails to change as the past 300 years have failed to generate an all encompassing British identity. The neo-con ideological attack on work and social welfare has also failed to force a return to pre WWII days of doffing one’s cap to one’s betters and accepting that Westminster ‘knows best’ . In fact, it seems many people are now beginning to develop the same outlook as the post war generation i.e. seeking the development of a better society, not simply an economically successful society.

    Given the dire history of constitutional change over the past century and the Establishment and Westminster’s preferred means of maintaining their hegemony over the populace (the generation of fear and anxiety allied with the presentation of myths and falsehoods via the MSM), positive constitutional developments across the UK seem unlikely. It therefore seems almost inevitable that Scotland will at some time (in the near future?) become an independent country once again.

  3. Gill says:

    Excellent piece. It’s the elephant in the room, devo-max. It would be massively popular. I wonder why it is never on offer, is it Unionists don’t want to cede power, Or that they fear it would like the formation of the Scottish Parliament was, merely a temporary staging post and they don’t want to go to the effort of sorting ‘it’ out to end up just delaying the inevitable. Or do they not want to appear to ‘give way’ which would send a message to the other parts of the union. I suspect this long drawn out give away the barest minimum it a traditional UK ploy, hoping that will be just enough. I suspect that at Unionist HQ they don’t want any change, its all just fine and dandy as it is. The Westminster lot will only act again if the SNP MPs really stop them achieving their aims down there, interfere in legislation, then the Unionists may act. Would be good if you could get a Unionist to explain their thinking on Devo-Max.

    1. Penny says:

      I believe the main driver of politico unionism is financial. In a ‘global’ open economy, Scotland provides a great deal of important money (balance of payments money viz oil) to Westminster; the city of London itself is a predatory engine of global accumulation whose main spillover effect in London is servant jobs (shopping,eating)–although there is some highly amusing blather about a high tech hub somewhere which thus far (10 years of public money later) has given rise to no app or device of any commercial interest whatsoever.
      Apart from London the rest of England is a big mess, a huge and costly drain on the entire UK as acknowledged obliquely in Osborne’s ‘powerhouse of the north’ publicity gimmick. Osborne’s main strategy is actually to make London bigger via faster rail links to Birmingham which could then be a suburb of London. Think about that one for a moment.

      With its small population, oil and concentration of highly educated cosmopolitan populations, Scotland’s surplus is easily drained ‘south’ to feed the transport needs of the predator (e.g. crossrail) and offer bread and the occasional circus to the underemployed in the rest of England.

      Exaggeration? I prefer to regard the above as strategic simplification. The most important technology coming out of England in the last decade is the Dyson product line and because of infrastructure constraints on supply chain management they moved production overseas about ten years ago. My simplification explains it –a lack of investment in the infrastructure on which business relies everywhere EXCEPT central London.

      I have no idea why middle England votes for a party that has systematically impoverished them. Nor do I understand why some in Scotland find it so difficult to appreciate the reliance of the Tories on taking wealth from Scotland to feed its city masters.

      1. John S Warren says:

        Your argument is well-made. Ed Cox, director of IPPR north said this in 2014: “Effective infrastructure is the bedrock of an effective and efficient economy. Transport connections, flood defences and high-speed broadband networks all allow people and goods to move quickly from place to place and for business to flourish. It is widely recognised that the North of England loses out as government spending on infrastructure is continuously skewed towards London.”

        Infrastructure spend on London’s Crossrail and Tube upgrades alone total circa £23Bn. In 2013 planned spend on rail projects in the North West, North East, Yorkshire, and Humber combined, was only £1.6Bn (a multiple of over 14 times spend in London, serving a smaller total population). HS2 is planned to start from London (to Birmingham), the most expensive section, and appears to account for around 50% of the total identified cost for the whole of the HS2 project in Britain: and it does not even link directly with the Channel Tunnel. The traveller to Europe will require to change in London (why would anyone from the UK outside London wish to go to Europe?); this was a quite deliberate political policy decision.

      2. Heidstaethefire says:

        Not a simplification, P, more an overarching view. Well done.

  4. Peter Craigie says:

    Surely the electoral crushing of the Labour Party in Scotland WAS the advantage the Conservatives achieved in the referendum campaign?

  5. arthur thomson says:

    The reason that no rational case for the Union has been presented is that, from a Scottish perspective, there is none. There is an overwhelming case from an English perspective but it would have been suicidal for the pro Union camp to present it. So in its place they reverted to more of the same, a campaign of telling the Scots that they are inadequate, they know they are inadequate and that they should stop pretending that they could possibly be more than a runt outpost of Great Britain. They almost failed in this approach because of the internet. Through the internet those people who accessed it saw the emergence of innumerable articulate and intelligent Scots and realised they were being sold a pup.

    Since the referendum it has just been more of the same from the Unionists because they have nothing else. They really are in a ‘heads you win, tails we lose’ situation. Their over inflated egos prevent them from even making a viable pretence at respect, which would expose their lack of respect in the past in any case; and if they continue to show that they despise then slowly but surely a more confident Scottish population will grow to outnumber those who are too far gone to recover any semblance of self-respect. The excellent performance of the Scottish Government will continue and add immeasurably to this movement – despite the craven efforts of the unionist parties and their mouthpieces.

    Growing self-confidence is the key to independence. That is what we who support independence must work to achieve. The great thing is that once people genuinely understand the truth there is no turning back.

  6. Broadbield says:

    Another excellent analysis from John. In Westminster Unionist terms Scotland is a basket case and has been for 300 years – “too wee, too poor, too stupid”. If that were true, then what an indictment of the Union if that’s all they have managed to achieve in 3 centuries. They also think that Scotland survives only thanks to the largesse of England as funds are diverted northwards to keep us afloat. Again, in their terms, if that were true then why not brush off this life-blood sucking leech that is Scotland?

    The truth, of course is different. Many analysts have shown that Scotland is in fact a net contributor and of course we are a convenient place to park their nuclear toys so that they can strut on the “world stage” and sit at the “top table” and “punch above” their puny weight. Westminster knows that without Scotland, and the possibility of further independence down the line for other parts of the old UK, the rump, or England, would be much diminished.

    Then there’s the macho element. Losing Scotland would be, for the (mostly) male dominated WM establishment and political class, an emasculating experience.

  7. Calum McKay says:

    The union is is on the horns of a dilemma.

    The forsyth approach now adopted by both tories and labour is one of not an inch, no surrender and exude bitterness towards any expression of Scottish identity.

    An alternative approach is for them to be proactive and when reasonable requests are made by Scots, consider them and respond positively.

    Both strategies contain risk, but the forsyth approach, suppression, will quickly erode the 55% as countless reasonable requests are dismissed. It also results in bitterness and future fault lines. The alternative approach delays the inevitable, a gradualist approach where the parties know the outcome and it will be an amicable parting.

    In parallel and I agree with John, the unionists appear bent on causing economic strife in Scotland, be it undermining key economic strategies or partially devolving tax powers. The issue with tax powers is that as soon as the Scottish Government raised a tax to meet a stated need, the uk government would cut the grant. This would ensure that through remaining taxes that go direct to westminster, Scots paid the higher rates than elsewhere. So unless all taxes are devolved apart from pro rata on, e.g. defence, we will loose out, badly.

    So what we have in effect is a state that governs Scotland that wants Scotland to fail. A suicidal situation, how did it come to this?

    1. Andy Borland says:

      Through design?

      1. Calum McKay says:

        I think initially they never saw 45% as realistic, especially when they hold all of the state tools, this alone must be worth 20% of a gift.

        Second, they viewed the labour majorities in The Central Belt as pemanent as tory majorities in the home counties.

        Having then reached this juncture on May 08 th and the election being five years away, they couldn’t really care, all they need to do from their perspective is to keep poisoning the well and opposing a referendum.

        You look at Iraq or Lybia, my question to you is “what would happen if you over throw the leaders in these countries’? Your response would probably say there would be chaos Calum. tories did not see or plan for this, and look at the result of the poor refugees wanting to gain safety in the EU. The tories response to first having contributed to this catastrophe and then turning their backs – highlights their complete depravity.

        So I’d suggest a mixture of accident, poor planning, vindictiveness and imperial ignorance on behalf of westminster has led us to this position.

  8. John Page says:

    Thank you for this thoughtful and very interesting piece.
    Why are the Unionists playing this so badly? Is it anything to do with the fact that they are part of the short term international finance driven culture that seeks self enrichment and focuses on the quarterly results and next Sunday’s headlines? No old style one nation Tories here…..they are narrowly focused ideologues whose political and personal goals are in close alignment. They are dissipating the commitment of previous generation to the Union……….my fear is that they are not bothered because they know the same senior military figures mentioned in today’s Sunday Times crapping on Corbyn can be relied upon to disrupt IndyRef 2
    John Page

  9. John B Dick says:

    The analysis above is a harsh judgement but irrefutable. Independence is now inevitable, but it need not have been but for the incompetence of Westminster politicians in a parliament not fit for purpose.

    Stepping back from consideration of whether indi-light or devo-max or devo-a-bit-more-than-Smith would have been enough, or indeed when it would have been enough, can any YES voter show me why it is that it is inherently impossible to devise a system of governance for these Islands (including RoI) short of independence.

    We can send people to the moon. Can it be beyond the wit of man to imagine something better than what we have now other than independence? I can see why we haven’t got it, but not why it isn’t possible.

    People, including many NO voters, tell pollsters that they vote SNP for ‘competence’. Since the benchmark is Westminster, relative competence can’t be challenging and once the distraction of Independence is out of the way I’d expect the SNP to up their game.

    Sixty years ago Donald Dewar shared with me his vision for a Home Rule parliament. I heard then about the Founding Principles, the seating arrangements, petitions, PR, pre-legislative scrutiny and much else. On PR systems, their advantages and disadvantages, where they were used, and for what, I got a explanation worthy of a tutorial for a higher degree.

    Donald explicitly and unequivocally denied that any of this was his idea, and insisted that it was ‘official Labour Party policy’. The aim of devolution was not only (perhaps not even primarily) the better governance of Scotland, but to provide a model for the reform of Westminster. If that was going to happen, we would see some sign of it now. Ironically, it now seems more likely post-independence when r-UK observes a more successful and more admired Scotland.

    My hope then was for the reform of Westminster. I was not convinced then that independence was an inescapable pre-requisite to getting good government, but it had a clarity and neatness and it avoided the extra expense of devolution. Donald was visibly dismayed that I rejected devolution as unnecessary.

    I was wrong.

    Westminster has proved incapable of reform. I want my dual nationality grandchildren to grow up in a country they will not be ashamed of. It’s time now to try the second option of independence.

  10. Paul Codd says:

    They’re taking a negative approach because it’s all they have, not just on the union/indy issue. Their politics is based on “power-over” not “power-to” and power-over all they are capable of understanding. Just look at how they’re reacting to Corbyn. Project fear also helps them to sow the seeds of the chapter that comes after an Indy referendum win which could be entitled “Bitter Apart”. rUK can still throw spanners our way during separation negotiations, EU negotiations, relations with Nato, UN, US, etc. Having an example of a functional state that operates on a quite different paradigm right on England’s borders would be catastrophic of the power-over paradigm being able to survive long term in WM. But how could they justify to themselves and their electorate being rotten spiteful little sods during and after the spearation rather than respectful neighbours unless they have first created the narrative that it’s all Scotland’s fault, and we deserve whatever we get.
    So in my view there is no reason to expect an end to project fear under any circumstances short of a major WM paradigm shift. Thing is, there are a tonne of things we could be doing in Scotland to move progressively towards the kind of democracy and self-determination that we want now without waiting for any say so from WM in the meantime. Launching an interest and debt free digital currency being a very a good example. Each initiative of this kind shields us a little more from the negative effects of BitterApart, improves our current position, makes the case for further reforms, and reduces the total number of changes needed for full fiscal and/or sovereign independence.

  11. willie says:

    Unionism in Scotland is finished. But it was never a true union in the meaning of ehatva union is.

    Rather it was an annexation of a junior partner to be dominated by an exploitative neighbour.

    But the scales have slipped from the annexed partners eyes who now knows that he is not in truth the junior benefit dependency that he was repeatedly told he was.

    But the abuser knows this too and this is exactly why Unionism is acting in the way that it is and lashing out in every way that it can. That is the only way this colonial one trick pony knows how to respond.

    But their treachery, exploration and malevolence is now clearly put in the open and one year on there is going back.

    Unionism will continue to make the case for independence.

  12. willie says:

    TTIP, restrictive trade union laws, financial barriers to workers wanting to pursue industrial tribunals, a broken vow, a nuclear arms race next to our biggest city, and all wrapped up with a relentless approach to widening austerity and poverty.

    And why is Norway not like this? Or Switzerland ?

    I think we are all beginning to understand that one now. They’re not as well looked after as we in Scotland are.

  13. Paul says:

    Great post. If only there’d been a second question……

  14. Mike Fenwick says:

    John … very interesting and accurate analysis. May I add this as revealing just how accurate, it is something that appeared in the past few weeks, but upon which I have seen little comment (Maybe I don’t get out enough?)

    It was the lecture given by Alun Evans, who is now Chief Executive, British Academy, but who was until earlier this year Director of the Scotland Office, and had previously been Principal Private Secretary to three Secretaries of State and worked as Head of Strategic Communications at 10 Downing Street and as Director of Communications to the former Deputy Prime Minister.

    If anyone wants to view the lecture in total, this is the link:

    But these extracts from an interview in the Guardian are perhaps a good precis of his thinking:

    “Alun Evans,told the Guardian he believes the UK government needs to make a “big, bold offer” in response to the surge in Scottish National party support since the referendum.

    “If the pro-UK parties and the UK government put on the table, ‘yes, we will enter into discussions around home rule’, that would straight away seize the initiative from the SNP and the Scottish government. They would be on the back foot,” he said.

    A plan for home rule, otherwise known as devo max or full fiscal autonomy, would be supported by some 80% of the Scottish electorate, Evans said. “And it would put an end to the plans for independence for many years. I’m quite sure that would be the outcome if we put it on the table.”

    Evans, who oversaw the Edinburgh agreement to hold last year’s referendum, and helped craft the UK government’s referendum campaign and its input into last winter’s Smith commission on further powers for Holyrood, said he now believed the political challenge facing the UK has changed.”

    He thought the UK government was wrong to veto a third option at the referendum, which would offer Scottish voters home rule rather than full independence.

    “With the benefit of hindsight, if a third option had been on the ballot paper it would’ve won a crushing victory and we wouldn’t be in the position we are at the moment,” Evans said.

    Too little, and far far too late is perhaps the obvious retort – but I also think it stands in stark contrast to the treatment given to any possible amendments to the Scotland Bill.

    Maybe Alun Evans belatedly realises what a huge mistake they made by not having a second question – but for sure the Government have not learned any lessons whatsoever.

    I am sure historians many years from now will see that missing second question as the turning point in Scotland obtaining independence.

    1. John S Warren says:

      Thank you for the link. The point I would make to Evans is that it did not require “hindsight” to see the opportunity; it was starkly obvious. It wasn’t followed not because it was ‘missed’ but because the Westminster government and Better Together presumably weighed the option and thought they could win the referendum and change precisely nothing; we might give this opportunism the name, ‘political greed’.

      Some of us were trying to argue the ‘Second Question/DevoMax’ point through the Referendum campaign, not because I think I possessed special insight, but because it was quite obvious. In my opinion the obvious was quite deliberately missed because Westminster thought it could ‘get away with’ avoiding the issue altogether in the vested interests of Westminster.

      I do not mean that we should draw wholly negative conclusions from this abject failure; if Evans has learned the lesson, fine. Nevertheless, Westminster has exhausted a great deal of goodwill in Scotland toward Westminster by pursuing a thoroughly bad and quite cynically self-serving policy. Trust has been damaged and Westminster now has to work much harder to be trusted. The question to be asked is – how do they propose to re-establish trust in Westminster politics? I see little evidence for it, and the rejection of every single (?) SNP amendment to the current Bill by the Westminster Government is not encouraging.

      The relatively weak response so far of Unionist apologists like Evans or Torrance is not encouraging either. The general air of hopelessness; ‘it is probably to late to do anything’, suggests that perhaps under the rhetoric and hand-wringing, Unionists still do not really want to do anything. They still seem to be relying on the drive toward either DevoMax or independence slowly running out of steam and support as a natural process, and on the same discredited or hapless Unionist politicians who failed Scotland badly, surviving into some kind of Indian Summer of credibility. The current Bill serves neither independence nor the Union; it is designed almost exclusively to give the SNP serious economic problems (the Cuthberts are very good on the detail here). There is still perhaps a germ of thought surviving in Unionism that Holyrood can be shown to have failed, and eventually be reduced to a sort-of Big District Council, with a political status in Britain to match. Nobody on the Unionist side is setting out a positive, credible or uplifting way forward for the Union. Nobody.

      We should not forget that the fundamental issue at stake is a matter of structural reform of the Union – a new Union settlement in the UK fit for the 21st century. The problem is that Westminster is carefully designed and operates on the basis that this cannot happen. Westminster (absurdly) believes that its antiqauted structure is already ‘the best of all possible worlds’.

  15. Broadbield says:

    I thought that at the time and I would’ve been tempted as I didn’t think we’d get a Yes result, but I thought it might’ve been an intermediate step on the road to full Indy. I also thought Cameron was a complete incompetent by not allowing a second question. Of course he, in his hubristic way, thought that an overwhelming No would put it all to bed. How wrong he was, and events since then, not just on Scotland, confirmed my view that he is incompetent.

    However, Evans’ argument is simply political, nothing to do with giving Scots what they want, but more to do with keeping together a fracturing, obsolete and much despised Union.

    Oh, and didn’t Broonie offer a “modern form of Scottish home rule”?

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