2007 - 2020

Everything is Possible

We are in a world closed down but also opening up, a world full of contradictions, pain and joy. Our mood and our energy loops and crashes as we try and endure the lockdown and the prospect of life with covid and with capitalism. Responses to the current crisis have exposed both the fragility of our structures and our institutions and peoples remarkable resilience. While we moan about other peoples behaviour and our (various) governments, you can’t help also be amazed by the hard work and care that is being put into supporting each other. If you view the world through the prism of social media it can look like a grim dystopia of deaths captured by dashcams and the worlds tyrants and bigots at play. But viewing the world through a child’s eye, or a friends or someone special and the world can look very different, full of wonder, full of possibility. This is the lens the Situationists were using when they daubed their graffiti on Paris streets in 1968 declaring: “soyez réalistes, demandez l’impossible” (“be realistic, demand the impossible”) and it’s worth remembering if the weight of the world is lying heavy on you.

In this weirdest of years everything is possible: home-schooling, the mass extension of university places, UBI, radical experiments in active travel, bikes, e-scooters, streets closed to traffic to make space for people, the appreciation of nature and ecology, the regulation of short-term lets that distort housing. We’ve even had a 9.3% reduction in humanity’s ecological footprint compared with the same period last year. David Lin, who lead the research team behind something called ‘Earth Overshoot Day’, found that there was a major drop in CO2 emissions (down 14.5% compared with the same period in the previous year), and in commercial forestry (down 8.4% on 2019). All of these gains are fragile and likely to be lost if the politicians (and us) race back to normal with unseemly glee and unity in our commitment to our deathwish.

Constitutionally too what a month ago seemed impossible now seems inevitable. For the last six months or more the Scottish democracy movement has been racked with self-doubt and doom with a self-fulfilling analysis that we are and would be forever powerless under the mighty yoke of the British state and its accompanying tentrils of broadcast propaganda. Yet this week, suddenly, this seems all less credible. As Boris holidays in some obscured part of Scotland, his new advisors have apparently began to abandon the idea that the plan should be to forever resist and refuse a Section 30 Order. Someone somewhere came to their senses and realised this was an indefensible position.

As polling begins to rise and rise month after month predicting a huge twenty-seven seat pro-indy majority at Holyrood and the inexorable rise of support for independence, something looking very like blind panic has set in at No 10.

So we’re told that Michael Gove has held private talks with senior figures from across the political spectrum in an attempt to find a way to save the Union in the face of rising support for independence. The Times tells us that: “Discussions have taken place with a wide range of notable names including Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale, the former Scottish Labour first minister, and Danny Alexander, the former Liberal Democrat chief secretary to the Treasury. George Galloway, the socialist firebrand who is planning to run for Holyrood, has also been sounded out. It is understood that Mr Gove has contacted a range of unionist politicians over the past six months after being given greater control over Westminster’s strategy for keeping the UK together.”

I think “senior figures” may be a bit of a stretch here, but you can see the thinking: triangulate a non-Tory triumverate to spearhead and advise – the dashing rhetoric of Galloway, the resolute solidity of McConnell and, er, whatever Danny Alexander’s good at.  The news filtered out with the caveat that the cunning plan would be accompanied by a bid to alter the franchise to either extend the vote to any Scot living anywhere in the UK, and/or, make the vote unavailable to sixteen and seventeen year-olds.

But while there are multiple problems with this, it didn’t prevent people who enjoy lathering themselves in doom from declaring that all was still dire and we were indeed never going to see the light of a referendum ever ever again. The problem for those addicted to doom and for Gove’s unlikely trio, is that this has already been legislated for. The Referendums (Scotland) Act 2020 (section 4), states:

Those who are entitled to vote:

A person is entitled to vote in the referendum if, on the date on which the poll at the referendum is held, the person is—

(a) aged 16 or over,

(b) registered in the register of local government electors maintained under section 9(1)(b) of the Representation of the People Act 1983 for any area in Scotland,

(c) not subject to any legal incapacity to vote (age apart) (see section 5), and

(d) a Commonwealth citizen, a citizen of the Republic of Ireland or a relevant citizen of the European Union.

They can’t change that.

This is a non-starter from political and media activists who don’t know what they are doing.

But as they say, don’t interrupt your enemy when they’re making a mistake. If Gove and Co really think that the the loquacious George Galloway is the answer to their terminal constitutional decline, then all is well. One of the many delights of the coming political battle will be seeing Galloway working closely with the Conservatives far-right. Another is seeing Ruth Davidson and Boris Johnson sharing a stage.

Galloway last stood for election in December 2019, when he ran in the West Bromwich East parliamentary seat. He came sixth with 489 votes. When he stood in Glasgow in 2011 under a Unionist “anti-cuts banner”, he mustered only 3.3% and lost his deposit. He is not the titan they think he is, and his influence is so diminished their faith in him and his political acumen is an amusement more than a threat.

The problem for the Conservatives (and Unionists) is that gerrymandering the vote (in whatever way they can) will look like what it is – a grubby attempt to cling on to power and to resist democratic change.

A solution for the Unionist Bloc would be to create a vision of the future that could engage and unite Scots in sufficient numbers to (re) commit to the project. If that seemed elusive in 2014 it seems other-worldy in 2020. The vision of a ‘Nation of Equals’ has been obliterated by the process and contempt of Brexit, and the idea of Britain as a financially sound source of stability is wrecked as we experience the UK’s worst recorded recession and UK Govt debt has topped £2 trillion for the first time and now stands at 100.5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). The idea of Britain as a gateway to – and a guarantor of – our place in Europe was slam-shut by the delirium of Brexit. This reality has faded in the sheer horror of the virus but will be re-awakened at the turn of the year as the economic reality of No Deal looms large. That this was all an entirely self-inflicted act of self-harm – culturally, geopolitically and economically – will provide an indefensible backdrop to both the Holyrood election and the coming referendum. The Unionist forces prepare for those battles with not only their personnel significantly diminished and discredited but their key arguments in tatters.

The democracy movement should in these circumstances do the following. First of all take nothing for granted in terms of our expectations of how dirty and deceptive this campaign will be. Given the players back-story and what we know of their modus operandi we can expect more of the same: dark money, black ops and propaganda. Second we need to avoid re-running the 2014 campaign at all costs. Third we have holes in our arguments that need mended and mended quickly. Repeating endlessly that all of this should have done years ago takes us nowhere. Fourth we need to “step in” and “step up”. We have given our opponents too much respect and ceded too much power. It’s time to start winning. Everything is possible.

 

 

 

Comments (22)

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  1. Wul says:

    “…we’re told that Michael Gove has held private talks with senior figures from across the political spectrum in an attempt to find a way to save the Union…”

    And the very last thing they will think of is offering real, actual power to the people of Scotland and a fair, honest, respectful relationship with London.

    As good as The British are at clinging onto power abroad and as difficult as they make it for people to run their own affairs; have they ever actually succeeded in holding onto a country once desire for independence became a settled majority position?

  2. Squigglypen says:

    Excellent article..
    ….saw a pic of Gove out jogging..got knock knees…just saying ! Galloway good at lapping milk from a saucer I believe..Alexander needs to go on a serious diet….O’Conell ..who?

  3. Robbie says:

    Awe Mike they ,ve left out Tommy Sheridan, with him alongside them that would really put the fear of s** t into us

    1. Gordon Purvis says:

      To Robbie In fairness Tommy S is pro indy

  4. Axel P Kulit says:

    Your last paragraph is perhaps the most important.

    We need

    1. To work out how e can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory – and how not to do it.
    2. To work out how the other side can win and how to prevent them. Ideally turning their weapons against them

    To do this we need to put ourselves in their heads – temporarily and with a guardian to slap us back to reality.

    And,

    NEVER UNDERESTIMATE YOUR ENEMY. NEVER DROP YOUR GUARD – EVEN AFTER THE BATTLE SEEMS WON. A yes vote could be challenged in court, somehow.

    1. Daniel Raphael says:

      And a judge to their liking can always be procured. Perhaps the one currently processing Julian Assange to his intended rendezvous with the CIA would suffice?

    2. Blair says:

      “Everything is Possible”

      Everything should be possible, this includes Scotland having full powers and saving the UK union, perhaps even keeping our EU Membership. Politics can and should be better, power should not be solely in the hands of our elected politicians but further distributed to individual citizens: There is no reason that this cannot be done through today’s technology.

      Our current system of politics is negatively affecting far to many people and creating huge imbalances which is just creating massive failures and debts. Whilst not a lot can be done about the Covid-19 Pandemic we have an opportunity to change the old British systems. The damaging compounding effects of capitalism must be controlled.

      Independence should be our last resort as Scotland could and should promote and chart the way forward for everyone. The challenge to our politicians is whether they are up to the job of properly representing us let alone protecting us.

      Our SNP government could make a real difference if only they took the time to really evaluate matters properly. If we are to turn past failures around then we should be using the winning strategy of “better together”.

      If everything is possible then failure is possible too: Failure being more likely to occur when politicians try to keep the voters from the truth!

      1. Axel P Kulit says:

        “Independence should be our last resort as Scotland could and should promote and chart the way forward for everyone”

        I have no desire to preserve the UK but with Holyrood in charge not Westminster. The UK is as dead as the Soviet Union was in Gorbachev’s time.

  5. George S Gordon says:

    In other news Jamie Blackett, gentleman farmer and deputy head pf Alliance for Unity proclaims George Galloway to be Unionism’s Che Guevara, That’s a non sequitur if ever there was one!

    Nice headline too, in the article where this was revealed https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/sturgeon-is-a-dangerous-demagogue-who-you-must-play-at-her-own-game-qhnrb72wh

  6. Pete Roberts says:

    Galloway Alexander Gove – GAG – the Axis of Tw@ttery

  7. Tom says:

    … regarding The Referendums (Scotland) Act 2020 (section 4), you say “they can’t change that”.

    Why couldn’t ‘they’?

    The Scottish Parliament might not want to, although it could, while the Westminster Parliament might want to, and could.

    1. Axel P Kulit says:

      Westminster could use Henry VII powers to remove the bit of the relevant Scotland act that says Holyrood can only be abolished after a referendum. I see no reason why they would not use them in other circumstances.

      If they did use these powers to over rule or close Holyrood
      they would shoot support for independence through the roof. Many NO voters I think want independence in all but name.

  8. Lorna Campbell says:

    “…A solution for the Unionist Bloc would be to create a vision of the future that could engage and unite Scots in sufficient numbers to (re) commit to the project…”

    All they have to do is comply with the Treaty of Union, 1707 and introduce the actual Union that was proposed and signed up to, not the one we have which was the result of a hi-jack by England the very next day. They won’t do any of that, of course, because that would diminish England-as-the-UK’s power base. In reality, the Unionists are apologists for English Nationalism and pernicious domestic colonialism. Let them try selling that to the Scots a second time.

    1. norm says:

      And even with alternative cases, like Scottish Labour’s overtures on federalism, they’re useless because the rest of the UK doesn’t want it, or major change, and certainly not a union of equals.

  9. Alin Scot says:

    “Third we have holes in our arguments that need mended and mended quickly. Repeating endlessly that all of this should have done years ago takes us nowhere.”

    I am afraid I am one of these who feel we should have done more before now but agree they need mended now as a stitch in time saves nine but unfortunately I see no sign of needle or thread, never mind threading the needle.

  10. SleepingDog says:

    Pretty much, I think. Two things strike me:

    Firstly, that ordinary people may be increasingly unlikely to trust that governments are able to maintain the “some things getting better/some worse” run. The type and scale of problems we face seem well beyond the kinds of chancers that bob up to this pond’s surface. Maybe we have just been avoiding catastrophe by luck so far. War and civil unrest may not forever remain on foreign shores. People are just going to have to pay more attention to politics, and make some contribution to better collective decision-making.

    Secondly, which goes along with the first, is that the myth of the Great Man (Occasionally Woman) of History appears to be in a declining sickness, whose ills are only increased by the kinds of people who publicly adhere to it: sycophants, elderly patriarchs, slimy opportunists, raving retrogrades, imperial fantasists and self-stuffed shirts. The more exposure the political party system gets, the more hollow its brand of politics becomes.

    Anyone with basic familiarity to the UK political system, entering a new era of extreme corruption, elitism, spite and incompetence, may see little chance for healthful reform. In Scotland, Independence is the chance to do politics better so that we can address the vital, important and other issues of today, tomorrow and many years in the future. The dirtier the campaigning, the more this segment will grow. Independence as a political and ethical duty.

  11. Ian says:

    Can George Galloway still be described as a socialist? I’m sure I’ve heard him say that he no longer believes in taking industry into public ownership, but a quick search shows he is all over the place on many issues. I’m wondering if describing him as a socialist without qualification is playing into his hands a wee bit.

    1. John Monro says:

      I’m pretty sure Galloway is a socialist, but he’s a bombast as well and thinks rather too much of himself. That’s never a recipe for clear or consistent thinking. His opposition to Scotland’s independence arises from some deep personal conviction which, as the case and desire for independence grows ever stronger and more rational, makes continued intellectual and political somersaults inevitable if he is to maintain this stance.

      1. “and thinks rather too much of himself” – I think might be an understatement John

        1. Derek Thomson says:

          Quite.

  12. Robbie says:

    Gordon I know, just going along with the theme ,everything is possible,imagine mr G and Mr S . Thanks

    1. Janine Nighntein-Aytee-Too says:

      Wanted to ask Mike & other readers for your legal understanding of the Referendums (Scotland) Act 2000, section 4, “entitled to vote in referndum, if, on the date on which the poll at the referendum is held, “b) the person is registered in the register of local government electors …for any area in Scotland”
      How long, on average, would a person need to be resident in Scotland in advance of referndum, to get on local government electors’ register on polling day? Does this registration always bring with it council tax obligations? : (Students, registered unemployed, households with people with disabilities: who else gets C.T. reductions / exemptions?) The campaign for independence should look at all legal ways of boosting the yes vote, including getting pro-independence members of the Scottish diaspora back in Scotland registered to vote in IndyRef2. Exploiting all legal avenues is ethically justifiable: all Irish citizens can vote in referenda in the R of I, whether resident in Ireland or not. Why shouldn’t diaspora Scots get to vote in IndyRef2, if they fulfill registration requirement.

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