2007 - 2021

Getting Our Ducks in a Row

Unknown“Many other people are falling and yet some of us have not yet noticed that the ground has dropped away. A handful of us believe that we are flying.”
– A.L. Kennedy

Mad Dogs and Englishmen

Yesterday Zac Goldsmith completed his descent from eco-friendly Tory MP to racist mayoral campaign to losing a parliamentary majority of 23,000, whilst overseas our PEOTUS – already bored with governing before even entering the White House – went on a rabble-rousing tour and announced the appointment of James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis as Secretary of Defense. Mattis famously made a speech in 2005 saying that it was “fun to shoot some people” in Iraq and Afghanistan and co-authored the army’s counterinsurgency field manual with David Petraeus. It’s a sign of how far we’ve come that he is, along with Mitt Romney, are thought to be a ‘moderating influence’ on Trump’s incoming administration.

Boris Johnson, who has already reputedly pissed off a whole raft of people, will today give his first speech as Foreign Secretary. BoJo – who just this Thursday was forced to deny a report claiming that he had told four ambassadors at a briefing that he supported the free movement of workers inside the EU, which he’s forgotten was the main force driving the UK’s departure from the EU – seems to be operating on a different planet from the rest of his European counterparts.

There’s a deep well of hubris and self-entitlement that Boris and his ilk are drawing on, immune to the reality that twenty-seven other countries are treating them with a growing and barely disguised contempt.

Responding to the bizarre notion that Britain could remain within the Single Market but control immigration AND let British people go anywhere, the German finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, warned him: “We’ll happily send Her Majesty’s foreign minister a copy of the Lisbon treaty,” he said. “He can then read about the fact that there’s a certain connection between the single market and the four freedoms. At a pinch, I can talk about it in English.”

Nobody’s heard of the Bullingdon Club in Strasbourg. Nobody gives two flying fucks about White’s, nor who plays polo with who.

As Jean Quatremar has written of Boris’s bungling on our behalf:

“His quip that the Italians would sell less prosecco to Britain if the UK was not able to stay in the single market not only created a diplomatic incident, but underlined the obvious weakness of the British argument: if the EU risks losing access to a market of 64 million Brits, Britain will lose access to a market of 440 million Europeans.”


Where once we had a laugh with Antoine de Caunes and Jean-Paul Gaultier we’re now faced with the altogether grimmer double-act of Philip Hammond and David Davis. We are watching the entire Brexit shambles descend to a new level of farce. This is true in Scotland as well as England, of which more in a  moment, but first to Wakefield where BBC’s Question Time was a riot of unrestrained Brexit anger.

To an audience baying to “Leave now” –  Ruth Davidson, Alan Johnson, Tim Stanley, and Richard Tice (from something called “Leave Means Leave”) competed with each other to make the case for Xenophobics R Us. But if the panel was its usually skewed weirdness, at least the audience had a democratic case to make. Several members of the public, from what we were told was a Leave stronghold made the point:

“We’ve had the vote, why are we still discussing the membership of the Single Market?”

Watch it here.

Cyp4VXlXcAA4sLDWhich is a good question. The answer to which must surely be that the people who reluctantly drove this car crash (Theresa May and Boris primarily) hadn’t thought it through and are now trying desperately to mitigate the disastrous consequences of the vote. To do so they have to try to delay and fudge as much as possible whilst kidding themselves (and us) that this will all work out splendidly, and that the rest of Europe will accept us completely re-writing THEIR Union for OUR benefit as we walk out the door.

This isn’t going to happen.

But neither is the scenario we’ve been asked to indulge in, that Scotland will get a special deal brokered by Theresa May, David Davis or Boris Johnson on our behalf. This may have all been an elaborate exercise in going through the motions by Nicola and all, but she has to have a backstory for IndyRef 2, an elaborate, imaginative and transformative strategy to take us from No to Yes. At the moment there’s no sign that she does, nor, if polling is to be believed, that there is any Brexit Bounce to spring us forward. That may change rapidly as the shit hits the fan, but as everyone knows extreme uncertainty and economic crisis are not good conditions to ask people to engage in decisive and radical constitutional change.

What we have here is a whole set of people kidding themselves on.

What Ducks?

Back to Wakefield. Ruth Davidson talked about getting things “In good order” and (slightly mixing her sporting metaphors) she said:

“It’s right that the govt listen to these people, so that they can go into bat with the best possible hand, you can’t lay your hand out first and then listen to people after, you’ve got to listen to them now, and gets all your ducks in a  row so that when we go into that room and we’re sitting at  stable – across the table from 27 other people who all want a piece of us … we’ve got our strongest team in the room … we know exactly what we’re asking for … we know what we’re going after and we know the deals we want for the people of this country … that’s what we need to do!”


It’s totally incoherent but wonderfully revealing.

In short, ask lots of business people what they want – then lock Boris Johnson and Philip Hammond in a room with the rest of Europe and make them agree to our demands.  You’d have to be really quite stupid to believe this was going to work, or operating at a  pretty superb level of self-deception.

Cyp4VXcWEAAEBrJSomeone needs to tell Ruth: there are no ducks.

But what if the aim isn’t to remove Britain from the EU but to bring down the whole EU? That’s certainly what some Leavers have in mind.

One of the snarling Wakefield crowd might get their wish to bring the entire European infrastructure down. Paul Mason looks forward to the coming weeks:

“Next Sunday, we get to see whether European centrism’s “double-or-quits” strategy will pay off. In Austria, where far-right populist Norbert Hofer is neck and neck with a Green candidate in the re-run of the election for the ceremonial presidency role, the left and centre are frantically trying to mobilise party-loyal working-class voters. They may fail. In Italy, on the same day, the centre-left government looks set to lose a referendum designed to strengthen the power of the executive over parliament. If the prime minister, Matteo Renzi, steps down and the markets crash, and Europe imposes a bank rescue plan that raids ordinary people’s savings, then you could get both a domestic banking and a eurozone crisis by Christmas.”

Aside from the fact that most immigrants to the UK come from outside the EU, how do you fancy a deregulated politically chaotic Europe would cope with the influx of migrants we have created from multiple foreign misadventure? If you think sitting pretty taking a fraction of our share of the chaos in an orderly structured European settlement is some kind of terrible hardship, then watch this space. The problem with the entire Brexit debate is that it’s predicated on a  false-victimhood status that somehow Ukania is somehow terribly hard done by (“30 years of hurt?”) rather than a privileged pouting recalcitrant island that’s been huffing and puffing on the edges for decades.

But if Wakefield was a snapshot of post-Brexit pre-Trigger Angry England in all its glory, hurrah for much leafier Richmond, where the Liberal Democrats have staged some kind of crazy (but almost completely irrelevant revival).

From Wakefield to Richmond

Tim Fenton from Zelo Street unpacks the Richmond result with some glee:

“In the early days of Europhobia in UK politics, there was no greater pleasure than seeing the Referendum Party losing its deposit in a whole string of General Election and by-election contests. This was not unconnected to the leader of that party being the late and not at all lamented James Goldsmith, a monumental shit of no known principle, who, like Nigel “Thirsty” Farage, was indulged by the media but never got into the Commons.  Goldsmith was also despised by many who cherished free speech and the right of dissent from the conventional wisdom, as he had tried – and ultimately failed – to close down Private Eye magazine in the 1970s over allegations the Eye made over his potential involvement in the disappearance of Lord Lucan, who is generally agreed to have murdered his family’s nanny before vanishing off the face of the earth. The sheer obnoxiousness of the family patriarch has since hovered over the rest of the Goldsmith dynasty, despite the ostensibly agreeable demeanour of son Zac, who became an MP in 2010 when he defeated Lib Dem Susan Kramer to win the constituency of Richmond Park for the Tories. The collapse in the Lib Dem vote at last year’s General Election inflated Goldsmith’s majority to just over 23,000. And Zac could have remained MP for Richmond Park for the foreseeable future, but for two things: first, he put himself forward as Tory candidate for the London Mayoralty, and then took part in a campaign notable only for its disgraceful Islamophobia and suggestions that his Labour opponent Sadiq Khan was some kind of terrorist sympathiser.”

So, nobody’s going to stop a third runway, it may just collapse under the weight of its own ridiculousness, and we have the answer to the conundrum:

“Zac Goldsmith: the man who has managed to answer, twice in one year, the question, “What if you blew a dog whistle and nobody came?”

Brexiteers are acting like children stamping their feet and brandishing the Daily Mail who think that simply by going in a big Euro Huff they can abscond from the rarities of the world. It would be funny if we weren’t tied to it.

But what does all this mean for Scotland? None of it seems particularly good.

At the moment we have a Yes movement that is fragmented and in denial about the need to reframe and refresh the entire case for independence, we are too often returning to the solution of blaming an enemy, from Kaye Adams to fraudulent Tory pollsters to Lesley Riddoch. This sort of hyper-defensive close-minded outlook won’t win us anything.

It’s certainly becoming abundantly clear that the only way to keep Scotland in Europe is through a second referendum and re-emerging as a sovereign state. To do this and win will require a “fresh eye and an open mind” not a stale argument re-heated and told with a greater and greater vehemence.

Comments (33)

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  1. Caroline Innes says:

    “It’s certainly becoming abundantly clear that the only way to keep Scotland in Europe is through a second referendum and re-emerging as a sovereign state. To do this and win will require a “fresh eye and an open mind” not a stale argument re-heated and told with a greater and greater vehemence. ” You are so right Mike – we need to stop sitting in wait for others to mess things up and get on with making the case now. If we don’t there is a real danger we will miss the boat and find ourselves locked into long term decline inside the UK looking in vain for the opportunities of Brexit (there are none). THE EEA is very much a second best.

    1. Interpolar says:

      I would agree. A second referendum has to be put to work now, even if a Yes is not secured. If Scotland is still on board HMS England when she steams off to the mid-Atlantic, it will be ever more difficult to strike out on our own, let alone reach European shores. We have to prepare our own departure now, before anchor is weighed.

      So what we must start doing now is developing that fresh eye now and build a vision for an iScotland that can be carried by a majority. That may mean deferring the socialist utopia promoted by some in the Yes movement.

    2. Craig P says:

      Given that we live in a fearful, reactionary world, perhaps the Indy mk2 message could pick up tips from the peddlars of fear and reaction, so as to appeal to the majority of voters. 🙁

  2. w.b.robertson says:

    In simple terms, the SNP wants to ditch the UK and ally itself to Europe. It might be a race against time. The mighty EU is becoming overladen with internal problems…if it all breaks up what does an Indy Scotland tie itself to? I think we should be told!

    1. c rober says:

      Scotland has no real reason to join the eu proper – unless its too feart to go it alone.

      Norway and the rest on the periphery do reasonably well with free trade , open borders , so who is to suggest that WE need to join the EU at all and keep soverignity and the levers denied us for 300 years in the original union? Once bitten?

  3. Brian says:

    “It’s certainly becoming abundantly clear that the only way to keep Scotland in Europe is through a second referendum and re-emerging as a sovereign state. To do this and win will require a “fresh eye and an open mind” not a stale argument re-heated and told with a greater and greater vehemence.”
    i don’t think any independence supporter would argue. So, what and who are we waiting for? From where should the leadership come? And in what form?

    1. carthannas says:

      Only the SNP can deliver independence. As much as you like to talk amongst yourselves on this site, that is the reality.

      Rather like the last Holyrood election, all the posing that you do here will only mean that the one party that could deliver independence will not get a majority. The sooner you realise this the better. All the Green policies, and left-wing policies, and God-knows-how-many other-policies will only happen once we’re independent. That should be the priority. You’re either too tribalist or so narrow minded to see it. Carry on talking amongst yourselves and lose the next referendum. Of course, that loss won’t really trouble you as long as you can go on go on talking.

      1. Craig Miller says:

        The SNP are fooling us all , they are arch devolutionist british folk ,riddled with british secret policemen ….Scotland is more like to fall over its own feet headlong into Independence before the SNP comes even close ….five decades of wasted door knocking leafleting and electioneering for a cause that they are betraying is heartbreaking ….suddenly very good at winning british elections tho

      2. Hi ‘carthannas’ – you’re comment: “You’re either too tribalist or so narrow minded to see it. Carry on talking amongst yourselves and lose the next referendum” is such an epitome of hypocrisy it’s truly staggering.

        I wonder what it is in this article that’s triggered your anger?

    2. Mungo says:

      We’re waiting for article 50 !

  4. carthannas says:

    “At the moment we have a Yes movement that is fragmented …”. I wonder why that is

    1. Derick fae Yell says:

      I wouldn’t say the Yes movement is fragmented at all. 99/100 activists are in the SNP and Greens. A few fringe voices as found on this site and Commons part are just that: fringe.

      We saw precisely how much traction with the Scottish people this fringe had in May 2016 – 0.5%.

      These platforms are an interesting source of blue sky thinking. Always room for alternative ideas.

      1. Unfortunately to win a Yes vote you need to win over people who aren’t in the SNP Derick, no?

        1. Derick fae Yell says:

          You elide the Greens there. Tut tut Yes. Of course we need to win over people not in the SNP.

          And those people, overwhelmingly, are not on the sectarian left

    2. Colin Mackay says:

      I’d argue because the reasons for losing 2014 haven’t been addressed and the SNP are focusing on a very narrow and problematic Indy = EU narrative at the moment. The EU is looking sketchy at best at the moment and putting all eggs into that basket is alienating many, many people who have reservations and want questions to be answered. It looks either way(fall or continue) that the EU is going to have to go through a major upheaveal sometime fairly soon.

      The case for Indy needs dissected and carefully built back up again, a rehashed version of 2014 will barely gain any new support and there are huge holes in that anyway. People already know the UK doesn’t really work, so suggesting a watered down UK-lite Scotland is pointless and won’t win as has already been proven. I’d like the next Indy Ref to be offering people a vision they can already see in some respects, and to do that hard and diffcult decisions need to be made now, by us and also the Scottish Government.

      ‘you can’t do that until indy’ could be the ultimate failure of the Yes movement.

      1. Alf Baird says:

        Perhaps cognitive psychology, which considers the psyche as the mind, explains things better by reference to the ‘mental processes’ that influence behaviour. I believe fundamental cultural differences (and particularly language) to be the key variable in the Yes/No decision, with folk ultimately considering themselves to be either ‘more British’, or ‘mair Scottish’, which itself is a consequence of ‘mental processes’. The Yes/No decision is therefore probably rather less dependent than we think on any specific policy factors or issues (e.g. currency). No doubt each side know who their main voter segments are, but I would posit the hypothesis (I admit based on my appraisal of debate esp. over the last 3-4 years, plus wider reading) that there is a kind of Psyche-Continuum for Yes/No voters in Scotland, containing broadly 4 main categories and which runs from the ‘extremes’ of ‘British-Max’ through to ‘Scottish-Max’, with a couple of dominant ‘areas’ or blocks in between, e.g. (with approx. resp. 2014 voting % indicated):

        British-Max psyche: landed ‘gentry’; private schooling; elite uni’s; professional elites; those born in England; Britain viewed as superior to Scotland; Tories mainly; no prospect of change (15%)

        British-Min psyche: middle and lower incomes; propaganda influenced; some challenged educationally/intellectually; Scottish cultural cringe influenced; trad Labour voters mainly + LibDem; limited prospect of change (40%)

        Scottish-Min psyche: many recent/former B-min (i.e. unionist) converts; less prone to propaganda influence; many higher educated; most intellectuals/creatives; social democrat/SNP/Greens; limited prospect of change (30%)

        Scottish-Max psyche: auto reject UK propaganda message; view Scotland as oppressed, exploited, and under-developed, or colony even; well-read; confidently pro-Scottish independence/nation; SNP; no prospect of change (15%)

        Appreciate ‘more research needed’ here, but broadly the middle areas are where transfer occurs and which are most likely to be propaganda influenced, hence importance of culture/language. Perhaps there are other typologies?

        1. Donald McGregor says:

          Tired and weary as it makes me, I’m still reluctantly tied to the notion that the Labour party really are the functional (not spiritual) key to yes.
          Remember 97? Surely I wasn’t the only one surprised then by how wholeheartedly we embraced the (labour supported) parliament question, and yet ran a bit scared when asked if we wanted a little bit of tax powers?
          Time is allowing the SNP to become an accepted major political voice, but hell, if labour could just whisper, as even bloody Ruth Davidson did, that they will happily work within an independent Scotland, that might well be enough reassurance for enough people.

  5. Doghouse Reilly says:

    A third runway at Heathrow may well “collapse under the weight of its own ridiculousness” but doesn’t the SNP support Heathrow expansion as good for Scotland?

    What is, and is not ridiculouse is so difficult to tell these days.

  6. bringiton says:

    What should be concerning Scots,at least those who value democracy,is that we are shackled to a “union” where voters in one of the partner nations can completely overrule decisions of major importance taken in another.
    In my mind,a union of equals that doesn’t make.
    Membership of the EU is just a symptom of the failure of democratic process (unless of course you do not see Scotland as a distinct entity).
    The Westminster establishment view Scotland,not as a partner in union but as a possession to be jealously guarded in case we are lured away by “foreign” influences.
    There is zero prospect,given that mindset,that Scotland will be “allowed” to do anything outwith Westminster control for so long as they control our affairs.
    As far as the ducks go,until Westminster tells the EU that we are off,I see no point in getting too energised.
    Perfidious Albion has been known to change it’s mind after all.

  7. MBC says:

    England views us ‘not as a partner but a possession’…. that’s the whole story right there.

    1. c rober says:

      yet it is showing that it wants the same sort of biased union from the EU , but lets not forget here that the EU havent exactly been offering the open hand of freindship since pre indy 1?

  8. Robbie Carroll says:

    Don’t believe yes is fragmented at all,but I do think that we should highlight the differences in the union more ,such as the lavish spending on London requirements ,hs2 , Hinckley and many others that’s kept in the shadows ,so called northern powerhouse the deal with Nassau etc, etc ,with us left cap in hand and be good little people ,SO we Must set up our Own defences to rebuke the inevitable Scare Game that will come from all sides of the media around us.show Scots the truth and light in the tunnel Where were going and just how Strong we are as a Nation,

  9. Ed says:

    Nice one !!!

  10. Craig Miller says:

    The SNP are now at the beck and call of NATOs new chief War Minister “Mad Dog” , they are fighting for the “whole UK” and Independence seems to come a sorry second to that aim , they have just elected a Depute whose drag rightwards seems to matter little to the rank and file , pro isre*l anti Palestine ….more Russophobic than the Tories ….this seems like a really good strategy to detach people of a decent conscience from the Independence cause …I couldn’t vote for them again…..but they are the animated corpse of the only vehicle we ever had ….what to do ?

  11. Alf Baird says:

    Scotland’s colonial status seems more apparent as each day passes, though hardly a surprise there for more observant Scots. If a Spring General Election is called, the SNP should seek a mandate for independence then. They should have done that in 2015 but for some obscure reason decided to ignore the party’s raison detre, preferring instead that the 56 “roaring lions” spend their term making meaningless speeches to a mostly empty Westminster. On this basis I would think independence could be ours next Spring. Wha needs a referendum!

    1. c rober says:

      Why spring “IF” theres a general election , theres definately a council one in MAY =

      But that wold mean the SNP keen on increasing the troughs would have to put their money where their mouth is and stand on one mandate – an indy ref by the popular proxy , then it would be a simple matter of then dissolving the union…. SO no permissions needed to hold a ref , and defeating project fear II , as I dont think that the unionists would fund another just for a poxy little council election.

      I will bet My British passport that any indy ref ii will be double or triple locked for a majority , that is if it is granted in the first place – After all should Scotland get another indy vote , will London then consider the same , or indeed a special status over and above the power it already wields.

      The fight is just beginning

      For me its just like the rewards of lands for those that took the silver , selling us as income generators for 300 years , or each and every area of the UK that now have their grubby mitts extended outwards in England selling out their countrymen , and the most disgusting of them are the areas that voted to leave – whom were ironically the first to be rewarded as they demanded EU funds to remain.

      England wants evel , so perhaps we should paint that turd gold and hand it to them , though the shortest route to indy , which is to instead ask ENGLAND if it wants to remain part of the Union rather than Scotland – they are after all on a roll of blamehate voting?

      Then we simply join up with the Nordic states for trade deals in the EU – keeping the Mcquid , pegged on the difference between the Euro and pound , and the economic levers that would remain by only being sovereign . Why the Holy FK after an abusive 300 year forced marriage would we be rushing into another – when the things we would like from it come from trade deals alone?

      1. Donald McGregor says:

        After 23june, I had a little dream that council elections would be postponed, that UK would have an emergency General Election, and that SNP would stand on a UDI ticket, in order to be able to cut the moorings whilst all around is chaos.
        Surprisingly (to me) I’m starting to think that Theresa May will (possibly deliberately?) actually get herself into that position very soon.
        Single all the shorelines now! Get ready to sail! Here’s hoping…

    2. Willie says:

      The Roaring Lions that you talk of Alf, have become part of the system and reminiscent of the Feeble Fifty that preceded them. Meanwhile the Tories wreak havoc across Scotland.

  12. Allan Thomson says:

    A sanity restoring article. Just in time, as we currently sink under a barrage of delusional predictions of the return halcyon British days. Remiss only in the omission of any reference to the cunning Liam Fox who will soon, I am sure, “trump” Mike Small by producing a veritable cornucopia of lucrative rest of world trade deals.

  13. Jack Duckworth says:

    Is there a point to this article or is it just a collection of randomly selected events with vague corolation but zero connection. The inability to distinguish between corrolation and causation is a measure of a persons intellect.

    1. Alf Baird says:


  14. Connor McEwen says:

    Too many fearties or feartys , shake the feartys and fearties out of their clan mentality, out of their whit aboot ma pension and whit aboot ma gran weans in Timbuctoo an ma holiday hame in Spain, TIME FUR INDY

    1. c rober says:

      Pensions as we know are garunteed for those that have paid in enough for the state one , or are already getting it , that evidence is there from the last round – despite the media whores repeating their nonsense , the agreement came direct from Whitehall. Unlike the private pensions , where we see there is some major gaps in funding in the biggest ones , mostly company pensions – which is a noose around Scotlands neck given the weighting to English residents.

      Nhs , the other stumbling block for pensioners , well under the stewardship of the SNP with the same funding as England it seems to be in a better position – BUT during indy our better together partners painted a darker picture – And in the case of DARLING he was , and still is , in the pocket of the privitisation route. So of course he had irons in the fire , a nice earner for to keep the union.

      The next biggest hurdle was the currency question , which lets face it nearly everything else depends on.

      So this is where the SNP , Holyrood et al should be focusing. Its my opinion that a temp shared currency , not unlike with the indepdence of Irealand would work , at least for a period. This during project fear was rolled out as a non starter , but with BREXIT now becomes Englands best hope – not Scotlands , in order to remove the tanking of the pound with the likes of Soros doing what he did already.

      So for currency , after the shared currency honeymoon , will it be a crown dependency quid controlled by the BOE , mcquid and a new state bank in Scotland , or the euro – all of those are a non starter imo.

      I done the back of a fag packet , the best option is a fluid soverign currency pegged to the difference in the Pound and Euro , lets call it the smackeroonie . Bear with me.

      Why this you may ask , well it aids in the long term planning and benefits of the two biggest markets we export and import to and from , England and EU. This would also remove increased costs of the “port tarrifs” , of using English ports for exports and imports , and stabilise the no doubt net importer prices somewhat. But for that we would still need a state bank , not a private central bank.

      The bank creation is easier than it seems , for one we would have all levers as independent for adjustments and taxes. So to create it we would be moving the money from the people away from casino banking , and their protected housing market , to local banking via councils as lending and saving co ops. Then of course we would also have the ability to have our own NSandI – for project funding.

      300 years old , still to move out of the parents hoose , Scotland the Brave , so its maw says.

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