The Nicola Sturgeon era of Scottish politics, how it will be seen and what comes after?

Politics have not exactly been quiet over the summer break. A Tory leadership contest for the next UK Prime Minister; a zombie government absent when millions of people need support and reassurance; and at the same time flexing its aggressive instincts to take on a panoply of predictable opponents: trade unions, EU and of course the SNP.

Nicola Sturgeon has been making several public appearances. She loves books – and book festivals. At last count she has appeared this year in five Edinburgh Festival events. One which made ripples was her conversation with actor and independence supporter Brian Cox at the Edinburgh International Book Festival Monday past.

There are several layers to this. The first that has been inaccurately reported by The Herald and other sources is that Sturgeon said to Cox that: ‘I can’t wait until I don’t give a fuck anymore.’ Not surprisingly these remarks have caused a stir, with various opposition politicians citing them as proof of Nicola Sturgeon’s supposed arrogance and contempt for the very voters she is supposed to represent. The trouble is, she said nothing of the kind.

The actual exchange between Sturgeon and Cox sees the latter look back at his life from the vantage point of being 76 years old. He says to Sturgeon: ‘As I get older, I just, I don’t know, I feel more free. I just don’t give a fuck any more, you know what I mean?’ to which she responds: ‘I can’t wait to reach that stage.’

Let’s get a second dimension of this out of the way before looking at the substance. The wilful misrepresentation of Sturgeon’s actual comments by once respected institutions such as The Herald is embarrassing. It says something about how far they have fallen in recent years – and this incident could be the product of confirmation bias (they wanted Sturgeon to have said what they reported) or it could be a result of lack of resources. 

Then there was the pile-in which is what happens in social media platforms, when public figures are quick to quote and cite things second-hand without checking primary sources or facts. So a host of Tory politicians such as Stephen Kerr come in claiming that this shows Sturgeon’s insouciance and laissez-faire approach to government. For some, and I cannot speak for Kerr here, their dissemination of the imaginary remarks are because they loath Nicola Sturgeon and wish to diminish her and bring her down.

However, the substance of the actual comments from Sturgeon is revealing and worthy of further investigation. They do not need misrepresentation as what she really said says something deeply interested and illuminating. In the exchange between Sturgeon and Cox after she says ‘I can’t wait to reach that stage’, Cox replies affirmingly: ‘Nicola, you will reach that stage.’ She then says ‘I get a bit closer to it every single day that passes, believe me.’

On one level, Sturgeon is responding on a very human level to another person and in this case the internationally acclaimed actor Brian Cox who is looking back on their life. There is an emotional connection in this; there is even some common ground in that both Cox and Sturgeon are working class Scots who grew up in council houses (when most of us did) and have made an impact on the global stage. The exchange between them is filled with insight that what matters in life become clearer as time passes, and the small stuff which used to worry you in younger days, matters less and less.

On another level, Sturgeon is a ferociously private person, whose public persona in part masks this. What is not to like in someone just being authentic and honest about the panoply of emotions which comes with any high-powered job, let alone being First Minister of Scotland?

Making these allowances there is still something going on which is uncovered or suggested by these comments. For a start they cannot be taken as just a slip of the tongue. In the past few months Sturgeon has made remarks which allude to her thinking about life after Scottish politics and that she sees on the near-horizon an end to her period as First Minister.

The words and sentiments of Sturgeon here are not those of someone wholly focused on the current and future challenges, demands and pressures of the job she currently holds: First Minister of Scotland.

Part of her mind is already in the future tense of the world after being First Minister. In this sense, Nicola Sturgeon has already left the building: Bute House. She is thinking of and dreaming of a new life: a job beyond Scottish and UK politics which could be a job with international reach and responsibilities.

Back to the human dimension. A bit of slack should be cut here. Sturgeon has been First Minister for eight years, in government fifteen, and in frontline elected politics for 23 years. She has been First Minister and leader of the SNP through some stressful and difficult times – for government, politics, society and herself as an individual.

There has been the COVD pandemic; the Alex Salmond saga that has been both professionally and personally difficult; Brexit; Boris Johnson’s shambolic, deceitful Premiership and the degeneration of British government; the cost of living crisis and the coming economic storm clouds. Sturgeon has had to navigate all these, while trying to run an administration whose fiscal powers are severely limited, while keeping the torch of independence burning.

Saying this there is also something about Sturgeon’s love of book festival events and conversations. These seem to offer a relatively safe, warm, even affirming, and non-partisan middle class audience and set of surroundings, where she gets the chance to unwind, talk about passions which aren’t all about politics, and which can on occasion let her feel free or relaxed enough to express herself openly in a way that the political arena doesn’t allow.

Countdown to an end of an era?

Allowing for all this the question arises – are we at the beginning of the end of the Nicola Sturgeon era of Scottish politics? There are a number of landmark dates coming up. 2023 is the date she has chosen for another indyref which when (as is more than likely) it does not happen, could offer one exit date.

Another is that the next Scottish Parliament elections will be in 2026 when, if she were still First Minister, she would have been in office for twelve years – which is a very long time in politics, and longer than Thatcher’s eleven years as UK PM. To add to any speculation Sturgeon herself has already cast doubt on whether she will stand again in 2026.

Assuming that there is no independence referendum next year, the retrospectives of Sturgeon’s period at the helm are being written and the balance sheet of successes and failures measured. There have been successes in policy including alcohol minimum pricing; initiatives to reduce child poverty including baby boxes; the creation of Social Security Scotland and the promotion of gender equality across public agencies and life. There has been one notable bigger achievement namely keeping public service, duty and commitment at the heart of the Scottish Government when the UK Government has been burning down its own house to the detriment of everyone.

That cannot be blithely dismissed at critics tend to do. Yet at the same time the roll call of failures and things going in the wrong direction gets longer by the day including education; health; the scandal of the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Glasgow; the rolling disaster of ferries and islands cut off from the mainland; the highest drug deaths in Europe; the war of attrition on the finances and capacity of local government; and the general tatty, declining state of the public realm even before the bin strikes. 

That is before mentioning the political capital expended on the issue of trans rights. As one political observer said to me at the weekend, surveying Sturgeon’s years at the top: ‘If only the SNP had spent their time making Scotland a better place and had something to show that said this is what we can do, then lots of people would be happier and the case for independence would be more self-evident.’

Government and politics in stormy times and what comes next?

It is at best a very patchy record without any singular, defining achievements, beyond keeping the show on the road and ship afloat in choppy waters. This is not really what politicians enter public life for. 

This has been an era of SNP ascendancy, alongside increasing centralisation and presidentialism of politics and decision-making, where few other prominent SNP figures have got much of a look in – with the partial exception of John Swinney. There has been no collective leadership, real team at the centre, or any succession planning growing the next generation of talent in the way that Salmond nurtured and encouraged Sturgeon. This sometimes from the outside looks deliberate and an act of party management. On closer examination it may well be that is more the unplanned consequences of a regime of accruing more power to the top, resulting in more pressure on Sturgeon. Whatever the motivations, it has been self-defeating for Sturgeon, government and party.

The ethos of government over this period has become more obvious and problematic. Technocratic managerialist centrism only gets you so far. But more than that there has been a defensive, unimaginative Scottish nationalism unable to understand the Scotland beyond it which remains unconvinced of the charms of independence. Added to this has been an increasingly defensive social democracy focused on the middle classes and professional groups which is centre-left rhetorically rather than substantively, and expressly avoids any politics of redistribution or shifting power from the elites who already know how to work Scotland.

Doing things differently could have been an option for Nicola Sturgeon. She became First Minister with huge political support, goodwill and a movement behind her. She had massive political capital, adept communication skills and a sharp political antenna that saw her win the 2016 and 2021 Scottish elections, three Westminster contests, and remain for an incumbent enormously popular after eight years in office. Many across the Western world could only dream of such popularity and electoral success.

She could have chosen to break out of the confines of defensive Scottish nationalism and social democracy. She could have harnessed the democratic spirit and energy of 2014 and utilised it to recharge and remake democracy, local government and public bodies – but damningly not one major public policy initiative emerged from the explosion of political citizenship and education of that campaign.

She could have chosen to tell independence supporters some home truths about the trade-offs inherent in self-government. And at the same time she could have exposed the thin nature of what passed for social democracy and social justice. She chose with all her political skills and advantages to do none of these, and instead to go with the grain of the dominant groups and accounts of society.

When the post-Sturgeon era begins those long put-off debates will at some point have to begin: about the nature of social democracy and the values of public life, and characteristics of independence in an age of interdependence. Serious questions and pressures will come to bear which will illustrate the nature of politics and power dynamics in the SNP, the values of centre-left politics, and state of the independence/self-government project.

This will all happen against a backdrop of some of the most severe crises to have hit Scotland and the UK in several generations: a cost of living catastrophe, an energy price hike blowing millions of UK household finances apart, a systemic failure of the system of Tory privatisation of what should be public monopolies, international instability and an ongoing war in Ukraine caused by Putin’s military aggression.

After she leaves office Nicola Sturgeon will be seen as someone profoundly decent, committed to public service and with many admirable qualities, but like many leaders remembered as a transitional leader who left the big difficult questions for others to address and try to answer. 


Comments (74)

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  1. Hugh McShane says:

    Can’t disagree with any of that…

    1. James Mills says:

      Oh yes I can !

      1. Alec Lomax says:

        Oh no I can’t !

  2. Mike Fenwick says:

    Harold MacMillan ” ‘Events, dear boy, events!”

    One potential series of events will relate to the Supreme Court.

    1) Will it actually sit at all or adopt a precedent from the Keatings case and the absence of a Bill presented in the Scottish Parliament?

    2) Will it allow an SNP involvement in addition to the Lord Advocate?

    3) Will it remove all “doubts” over the Scottish Parliament’s powers – whether positively or negatively?

    4) Dependent on 3 and no matter the outcome) – will Liz Truss accept the advice of Lord Frost and amend the Scotland Act to establish where ultimate power resides over all such matters?

    Total speculation on my part:

    It all goes negatively – there will be no October 2023 Referendum – leaving planning for a Plebiscite General Election as the next potential event.

    Nicola Sturgeon, with an eye on her personal future, may well decide that it is the perfect time to pass the responsibilities for such planning to a successor.

    Que Sera!

  3. 220901 says:

    ‘She could have chosen to tell independence supporters some home truths about the trade-offs inherent in self-government. And at the same time she could have exposed the thin nature of what passed for social democracy and social justice. She chose with all her political skills and advantages to do none of these, and instead to go with the grain of the dominant groups and accounts of society.’

    Yep, she has chosen (wisely?) not to jeopardise the independence project by frightening the horses.

  4. Tom Ultuous says:

    On the subject of media bias I’ve been keeping a running total on MSN articles relating to independence. The current state of play is

    Independence related articles on MSN since referendum date announced
    Anti-Neutral-Pro = 90-4-5

    Of the 5 pro articles, 4 of them were down to Angus Robertson’s column in The Scotsman, the other was in The independent. The Telegraph and Express are particularly going to town on the anti-independence front. Often, they don’t expect the reader to read beyond the headline. For example if they wrote an article on the Nicola Sturgeon “comment” that Gerry mentions the headline would suggest she made the comment but maybe later point out in the article she agreed with a comment made by Brian Cox. The Express had this gem yesterday

    Headline: Nicola Sturgeon suffers devastating polling blow as SNP support collapses.

    First para: The new survey puts Nicola Sturgeon’s party only two points ahead of Labour on 25 percent. It represents a massive drop in support for the governing party when compared to the last general election. In 2019, the SNP won 45 percent of the vote in Scotland and 48 out of the 59 seats. The latest poll by Redfield & Winton Strategies will come as a huge blow to Ms Sturgeon, who has threatened to use the next Westminster election as a proxy vote on Scottish independence.

    Slipped in later in article: Redfield & Winton Strategies spoke to 2,000 UK adults on August 28. However, only 180 of those spoken to were in Scotland, meaning the results should be treated with caution.

    The Telegraph has been particularly active on Scotland’s response to the Ukrainian crisis. It never mentions that Scotland has accepted twice as many Ukrainians per capita as rUK. Instead they are all apparently living in cramped cruise ships in rooms smaller than prison cells. Then you read this elsewhere

    [Speaking to the BBC Nikol Bilous, 19, from Kyiv said: “The conditions on the ship are better than we could have dreamed of and we are very grateful to the Scottish people for this accommodation.
    There is Ukrainian TV channels which we were very surprised about as you never find that when you go on holiday. All the signs are in Ukrainian on the ship and most of the staff are Ukrainian.
    And last night we had Borscht beetroot soup, our national dish, we couldn’t believe it. We were so happy to have this as it is our hearts.
    There is also Wi-Fi on board. It’s perfect. The rooms are quite small but they are perfect and we are very happy and grateful.”
    The Scottish Government says new Ukrainian arrivals to Scotland are met at a network of “welcome hubs”.]

    This is what we are up against in the “democratic” UK.

    1. gavinochiltree says:

      A colonial media from Anglo-British nationalists who deny their nationalism even exists.

    2. 220901 says:

      Yep, in an open, democratic society, in which a wide range of interest-communities can compete for our ‘clicks’ and data, it’s beholden on each of us to be vigilant and incredulous in relation to the content we consume.

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Lord Parakeet the Cacophonist, it is not simply “beholden on each of us to be vigilant”, which is as stupid as the qualification “the results should be treated with caution”; it is a case for the press complaints regulator to rule on.
        Seems to pretty clearly an article intended to grievously mislead readers. IPSO has a complaints form, and regulates the Daily Express.

        1. 220901 says:

          Then if, in your vigilance, you discover content from an IPSO member that’s in breach of it regulation, download their form and complain.

          1. Wul says:

            Yeah, that’ll work. Filling out forms is a well-tried way to produce radical change.

            You do realise that advertising works don’t you? It may not influence great-thinking minds like your own, that love to hold every statement up to the light, examining it from every angle and testing it’s truth.

            A lie just needs to be repeated often enough for enough people to believe it.

          2. 220902 says:

            Tell that to SD. It’s s/he who’s saying that greater vigilance and incredulity on our part in relation to the content or ‘advertising’ we consume isn’t enough, that we need in addition some authority (namely, IPSO with its complaints forms) to regulate our consumption.

          3. SleepingDog says:

            @Lord Parakeet the Cacophonist, you seem unable to understand the simple truth that people are affected by what *other* people read. This was the basis for the conviction of Alex Jones for lies he published about the Sandy Hook massacre, which endangered the lives of the bereaved parents.
            Such lies, hate speech, misleading information and so on can cross jurisdictions, and the most vulnerable (foreign or domestic) can have little or no legal redress. We might consider how media should be regulated in an independent Scotland; my view is that there should be some global responsibility, not just some right of challenge for people in this jurisdiction. If an organisation (say corporate media outlet) is running a domestic misinformation campaign, what should be the standard recourse?

          4. 220902 says:

            ‘If an organisation (say corporate media outlet) is running a domestic misinformation campaign, what should be the standard recourse?’

            Need there be a ‘standard’ recourse? Misinformation can always be exposed and countered immanently by rival content providers.

            Democratically, the key thing is not to have some authoritative body regulating ‘the truth’; it’s rather that we ensure that no single interest can monopolise the media, that a plurality of voices can be heard, from among which audiences can select the voices that best speak to them, rather than any one dominant or privileged voice.

          5. SleepingDog says:

            @Lord Parakeet the Cacophonist, I get that you are pro-cacophony and untroubled by some people’s voices being amplified millions of times louder than others, while some voices are completely silent (like those of the massacred children whose existence Jones denied). So, you are also pro Alex Jones’ defence of free speech then? And against his ever being brought to trial in a court assembled to try the facts of such a case?

            In a regulatory environment, of course, the system is set up to deter certain kinds of behaviour and protect other kinds, and specific cases are held as examples of general rules.

            Incidentally, I watched Emily Maitlis’ McTaggart Lecture and, if her admissions of her own lack of basic critical training are generally true of journalism, this speaks of a much greater malaise in the profession:
            Her struggle to understand false equivalence is related to the fallacy of false dichotomy, where an unsound presumption of exclusive or (either point A must be true or point B must be true, but not both) leads to the false approach (so commonly featured in this blog’s comment pages) of trying to prove that someone supports A by their denial of B (roughly speaking).

          6. 220902 says:

            Jings! That’s almost the complete opposite of what I actually said:

            ‘Democratically, the key thing is not to have some authoritative body regulating ‘the truth’; it’s rather that we ensure that no single interest can monopolise the media, that a plurality of voices can be heard, from among which audiences can select the voices that best speak to them, rather than any one dominant or privileged voice.’

            You’ve excelled yourself!

            Incidentally, I elsewhere made the same point that Emily Maitlis made in relation to the ‘Yes/No’ nature of the independence debate and Stephen Noon’s call for a more nuanced, less polarising dialogue. The consensus among the independentistas on that thread was that such a nuanced dialogue is beyond both the people of Scotland and the nations of the UK.

          7. SleepingDog says:

            @Lord Parakeet the Cacophonist, I thought the primary purpose of obscuring your posting identity, as you have explained it, was so that your posts stand alone and you can indeed say the opposite of what you have already said elsewhere while reducing the chances of people noticing your self-contradictions? Or are you rowing back on that as well?

          8. 220902 says:

            Did i say that, did I? Or are you making that up as well?

          9. SleepingDog says:

            @Lord Parakeet the Cacophonist, for someone who has branded their online identity on disintegrity, your subsequent appeals to others to recognise your integrity are somewhat self-undermined, not to say doomed.

            So, where do you stand on Alex Jones’ defence of free speech?

          10. 220902 says:

            Alex Jones didn’t defend free speech. He defended a case of defamation that was brought against him by the parents of a child who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. He wasn’t sued for seeking to mislead his audience in the way that it’s routinely claimed by all political sides that some media content providers seek to mislead their audiences into voting for the ‘wrong’ side; he was sued because what he said was claimed (and subsequently found) to be defamatory. He appealed to the principle of free speech (as defined by the First Amendment) as part of his defence against the defamation charge, but he didn’t defend that principle as such.

            Would Emily Maitlis find that, in appealing to the Alex Jones case here, you’re guilty of making a false equivalence? ‘Untrue’ or ‘misleading’ does not equal ‘defamatory’.

          11. SleepingDog says:

            @Lord Parakeet the Cacophonist, I did not claim Alex Jones defended free speech, I wrote “Alex Jones’ defence of free speech” in the context of his being “brought to trial in a court”, the meaning of which should be clear. A lawyer defends their client, not a Constitutional amendment (and the Texas court threw that initial defence ploy out). That you chose to misconstrue this is typical of your bad-acting here, and a deflection from the truth, that as a cacophonist you are firmly in the Alex Jones InfoWars camp.

            Of course there is a political dimension to InfoWars, which is positioned on the far-right of USAmerican politics, with notable affiliations, even if monetary income also seems a motive. Specifically, this misinformation campaign (claiming that the Sandy Hook massacre of children was a government hoax and the bereaved parents were paid ‘crisis actors’) was slanted towards opposition to gun-control legislation. Just like your campaign of sophistry is slanted towards British unionism.

            Unsurprisingly, “Truth is an absolute defense against defamation in the United States, meaning true statements cannot be defamatory.”
            Statements of opinion, which cannot easily be tested, are therefore not generally triable under defamation law. But since you deny the possibility of objective truth whenever it suits you, your position on this is worthless. Go on, wriggle some more.

          12. 220903 says:

            You seem to be assuming that the claim, that the truth is undecidable in any final or absolute sense (which is what I here claim), leads necessarily to the other claim (which I don’t here make), that no truth is possible. From the perspective of the undecidability thesis, that’s a false assumption; other conclusions are possible.

            The conclusions I draw from the undecidability thesis (which was the subject of the academic research into ‘Interpretation, Decidability, and Meaning’ with which I concluded my apprenticeship as a dialectician back in the 1980s, and which informs the work since carried out by decolonialists like Catherine Odora Hoppers, Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Maja van der Velden, and Shiv Visvanathan in the field of cognitive justice) is that the truth is always perspectival (it’s always someone’s truth), that no-one’s truth can be legitimately privileged over anyone else’s, and that the truth is therefore always provisional, contingent, and plural rather than final, absolute, and singular.

            My understanding, which you asked for, is that, according to the jury in the case against Alex Jones, what he said a) did defame the plaintiffs and b) was therefore not protected under the First Amendment, which does indeed imply that true statements can never be defamatory. However, the First Amendment is silent on the philosophical question of whether the truth of a statement is final, absolute, and singular, rather than provisional, contingent, and plural.

    3. Wul says:

      What is “MSN” ? Microsoft Network?

      1. 220902 says:

        MSN is the news aggregator that Tom uses. It gathers news headlines and articles from around the world and allows users to set their own personalised favourite topics and sources, receive notifications of breaking news through alerts, filter preferred news sources, and alter font sizes to make articles easier to read. Other aggregators are available, but MSN seems to satisfy Tom’s appetite for grudge and grievance.

        1. Alec Lomax says:

          Grievance. Copyright word of Scotland in Union.

  5. gavinochiltree says:

    I agree that Sturgeon could have done so much more, but in the face of outright media dissembling (and bias) its not easy to be radical—but I suspect she will wish things had been done differently.
    The end of her time will also be contiguous with the public facing a genuine crisis in family economics, and the broad UK democracy facing a crisis of confidence.
    Liz Truss seems to be a disaster in the making, though her chums are spinning how good she will be when in office.
    I listened to Sir Keir Starmer waffling on radio 5–clever evasive non-answers. This is a man elected on a party and personal manifesto he has since ditched in its entirety. Trustworthy? Dont think so!
    Who will prosper during all this? I suspect the far right and the far left.
    We can look back at the devolution years of Labour/Lib Dems when funding was so great they returned money to the Treasury year after year.
    We can look back at the Salmond/Sturgeon devolution years as being times of diminishing optimism.
    We might be facing the end of devolution as we came to know it, no matter who gets elected down south.
    What then, is the million $ question?

  6. JP58 says:

    Gerry doesn’t give much notice to the fact that NS has won multiple elections since 2014 – often increasing the SNP vote (especially among women) from what was a very high baseline. Surely this is a notable achievement for any politician?
    When she took over as FM after independence referendum defeat SNP & independence support could easily have collapsed though she would be first to acknowledge Brexit vote and implementation and increasingly Anglo British Tory governments have been a great help in enhancing SNP support. The poor quality of personnel and performance of other parties in Scotland has also helped her though she did see off the. Ruth Davidson the darling of the media.
    The conundrum she faced was trying to woo soft No’s- often middle class homeowners without alienating the support base built up by AS. The other difference from AS was that after 2014 vote it has become more difficult to get a No voter to switch to Yes (& vice Verda) as human nature is to double down and justify your original decision. I guess we will find out over this winter cost of living crisis whether Labour can won back some working class voters.
    While not disagreeing with many of the articles points an independence movement by its very nature will be a broad movement which will require a balancing act.
    The SNP’s electoral successes inevitably mean that they will struggle to have effectively representation from MPs, MSPs and councillors because there are so many of them and pool of people wanting to do these jobs is relatively shallow. Successor planning is not obvious possibly out of fear of a challenge to her?
    Whether NS has or could have brought Scotland closer to independence is debatable but she has kept the pot on the boil.
    Lastly if you judge a politician by how much she is feared by opponents (& there are many across the UK) you would have to rate her as success – witness the desperate desire to bring her down over AS trial and any Covid indiscretions and general hatred to her in right wing (and some liberal) media.

    1. Gerry Hassan says:

      In response to your comments JP58.

      I do expressly acknowledge NS & the SNP’s enduring popularity winning elections – and the achievement of eight years as FM and her personal popularity. I also mention that these levels of support and success are impressive in an international context of democracy in retreat, under attack and across the world failing to deliver.

      But we do need to have an honest conversation and debate about the big issues. What have been the big ticket domestic achievements in eight years of Sturgeon? Yes there have been successes; yes the external environment has been challenging; yes there is a hostile media. Yet on the latter this has not affected her overall electoral popularity.

      One of the bigger problems has been a politics of tactics and short-term management; combined with an unwillingness to chart a course on the centre-left values we keep telling ourselves we believe in and on independence. Given the goodwill NS & the SNP have had and the coming storm clouds that seems a huge missed opportunity.

      And as a final observation: independence just does not automatically win by default. Westminster’s meltdown and shitshow does not mean indy necessarily wins; the case for indy has to be remade and won positively. Have written a forthcoming book on this out at the end of the month: Scotland Rising: The Case for Independence.

      1. florian albert says:

        ‘an unwillingness to chart a course on the left of centre values we all keep telling ourselves we believe in’

        Seriously, who are the ‘we’ in this sentence ?

      2. JP58 says:

        Thanks for reply and yes upon rereading you do mention NS electoral achievements in 2 separate paragraphs. I would also mention the high support built up for independence in young and that NS is subjected to some horrific misogyny especially from males of our age range!
        I think there are 2 different drivers for independence disillusionment with Westminster and confidence in the ability of an independent Scotland to deliver a better quality of life.
        Tory governments Scotland doesn’t vote for, Brexit and it’s implementation overriding devolved parliaments will keep level of antipathy to Westminster at a high level and energy costs will become another significant factor.
        I am not sure a radical left of centre agenda from SNP would be a positive driver to convert the soft No’s to Yes. This demographic are small c conservative home owners who want to avoid potential significant negative financial impact of independence. Brexit has made them more open to independence but to win them over NS and Yes side need a viable financial plan and to answer questions of currency, border, pensions etc that No side will raise at every opportunity to frighten them back into No camp.
        A SNP administration showing competence in devolved areas eg health & education and making some progress on social justice in contrast to Westminster incompetence and cronyism would be effective here – note rise in support for independence during 2021 from covid pandemic due to NS in comparison to Johnson. Show not tell as NS said.
        One area of planning that would greatly benefit developing Yes support would be a plan for decentralisation of power in an independent Scotland.
        I will try to read your book ( thanks for plug) to get a greater understanding of where you are coming from.
        I am currently reading Steve Richards biography of Gordon Brown – a theme that runs through this book is the timidity of New Labour despite massive majorities and how paranoid they(including Gordon Brown)were of not upsetting Murdoch, Dacre and middle England. This is still true with Keir Starmer’s attitude to Brexit and need to distance (demonise) SNP.

        1. Gerry Hassan says:

          Thanks for those interesting observations.

          I do think we have to acknowledge the human dimension in this; stress points, anxieties and exhaustion of a large part of society in Scotland and across the UK. This affects government, public bodies and wider politics. It has implications for public life when many folk are trying their best; and for independence.

          Yes the Scottish Govt is not anywhere near the disaster zone of the Westminster Govt & politics; but that is really not the kind of comparison we want to encourage in Scotland; comparing and finding ourselves superior to the shitshow of Westminster.

  7. BSA says:

    Disappointing that Gerry recycles the regular unsupported Unionist soundbites about allegedly failing Education and Health along with the ferry nonsense.

    1. 220902 says:

      Indeed, the failings of the SNP in government have nothing to do with independence.

  8. Paddy Farrington says:

    This piece strikes me as evidently premature and singularly parochial. One of Nicola Sturgeon’s achievements is to have put Scotland and its distinctive aspiration for statehood very firmly on the map, especially within the EU, and to have done so in a way that has earned widespread respect.

    1. 220902 says:

      ‘Scotland’s’ distinctive aspiration for independence? At the last count, only 30-31% of the Scottish electorate voted for parties that aspire to take Scotland out of the UK.

      1. Paddy Farrington says:

        All the more remarkable that attitudes towards Scottish independence have changed so dramatically in other countries, notably those in the EU. This is largely to do with the civic dimension of Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘civic nationalism’ and the openness that goes with it, which she has emphasized relentlessly and in stark contrast to the exclusionary agenda pursued at Westminster.

        1. 220902 says:

          I haven’t seen any attitude surveys from other countries. But, yes, Nicola’s civic nationalism is admirable and strategically necessary in an increasingly cosmopolitan Scotland. ‘Scot’s wha hae wi Wallace bled’ just doesn’t cut it any longer.

          1. 220903 says:

            I note that the research referred to was carried out by Redfield & Winton Strategies, whose work (Tom Ultuous notes above) needs to be treated with caution.

            But even discounting Tom’s scepticism with regard to the trustworthiness of the pollster, the most that can be extrapolated from this poll is that, on average, unqualified support among European voters for Scottish government becoming independent of the UK sits at 43%, 33% can’t be *rs*d one way or the other, 13% don’t know, and unqualified opposition sits at 11%. There’s no indication of how much or how ‘dramatically’ this has ‘to do with the civic dimension of Nicola Sturgeon’s “civic nationalism”’.

            I suppose what will matter more to the prospects of and for an independent Scotland will be the attitude of other European governments. Will they be disposed to recognise its independence (especially if its claimed extra-legally, without the due process that Nicola is pursuing)? And, if they do recognise it, will they be severally and collectively disposed to admit an independent Scotland into their union?

      2. Alec Lomax says:

        Meanwhile the Scottish Tories get 22% of the vote. Impressive !

        1. 220907 says:

          No, the Tories got only 14-15% of the eligible vote.

          This compares to the 36.5% of eligible voters who didn’t vote for any of the parties. In fact, it was the abstentions (who voted with their feet) who really ‘won’ the election.

  9. Wul says:

    Sturgeon’s still got the £30 I donated to her “It’s time, get your coat”, “Yes” campaign years ago, and hee-haw sign of any action . I’m effing annoyed about it. I don’t like being conned.

    The SNP may (or may not) be the vehicle that gets us to independence, but they are definitely not the vehicle for a fairer, more empowered, less centralised, socially democratic Scotland. We will need to that bit ourselves.

    1. Wul says:

      To do that bit ourselves

  10. carthannas says:

    “ . . . the Alex Salmond saga . . . “ For which read ‘the Alex Salmond stitch up’.

    “ . . . Nicola Sturgeon will be seen as someone profoundly decent . . . “ Really?

    1. 220902 says:

      Indeed, given that all we can ever know about Nicola is ‘mediated’ (curated by the media through which she’s presented and presents herself to us), and given that this mediation is always ‘interested’ (framed by some angle or agenda), how she’s received will always be contingent on and relative to the eye of the beholder.

    2. Niemand says:

      It’s what I was thinking. ‘Profoundly decent’ is hyperbole at best and I suspect a sweetener here. It is all relative and compared to some current politicians she is not so bad, but the bar is low. Watching and following the details of the Salmond trial it was pretty clear she was anything but ‘decent’, and the way she has run the SNP has been to virtually destroy its internal democratic working. Similarly, the controlling nature of the SNP and laws it has passed challenging fundamental democratic freedoms are actually profoundly worrying.

      1. 220902 says:

        Indeed, the depth of her decency is almost irrelevant; the extent of her authoritarianism, her centralisation of Scottish government, her almost ‘presidential’ concentration of power in Bute House, and the malign effect that such control freakery could have on the shaping of Scotland’s political culture going forward, might be the more significant legacy of her reign. Benevolent despotism is still despotism.

        1. Alec Lomax says:

          The nation awaits liberation by the ALBA Party. Or rather, it doesn’t.

          1. DAVE says:

            Hullo Alec. I am not a humble Scot. I’m a very PROUD Scot. I’m proud of any Scot who does well and support any Scot who wants independence.

            The ALBA party with the ISP and all Independence parties will be the ones to deliver independence. The NU-S.N.P. will not as the Murrells have just sat back raking their big fat cheques from the English Gov’t for the last 8 years. The admitted British Leader Ms. Sturgeon was given a mandate by the Scottish people for independence with a land slide win in last years vote. A RECORD NUMBER OF S.N.P. SEATS. However true to form she said it was for a 2nd referendum. That win was the 2nd referendum. Instead of declaring independence she conned her S.N.P. supporters by declaring that she would do her best to hold a not required referendum next year 2023. Her best is not good enough. Of course she wiggled out of the declaration causing yet another delay and went even further by groveling to the ENGLISH supreme court for their opinion. Another delay.
            SCOTLAND as a SOVEREIGN country does not need any foreign countries opinion or approval. Since 2014 the NU-S.N.P. under F.M. Sturgeon’s Indy programme has consisted of criticizing the English P.M. Boris while begging for permission to hold the not needed referendum. So F.M. Sturgeon continues to insist for English permission. Let’s not forget that she has a BLACKOUT on any information which the Scottish people (NO voters) need to make an educated decision on the facts. That is why the YES vote is around 47%. The only plan she has is to have a referendum which
            will favour a NO vote. She never stands up for Scotland as the British Gov’t hammers we Scots with lies and continually ridicule our culture and people. She has never said she is a supporter of independence. As the English owned Scottish media up here have a BLACKOUT on the slightest
            positive Scottish achievement ( ECONOMIC, CULTURAL or HISTORICAL) under the orders of the British/English gov’t F.M. STURGEON HAS DONE JUST THE SAME. Her BLACKOUT is even worse as she refuses to even mention the unbelievable wealth and advantages Scotland has. I know because I have tried to contact her several times only to be told by her then snippy assistant to STOP trying to contact the F.M. and to send my information to the NU-S.N.P. HQ which I did several times. It was buried in keeping with her BLACKOUT. That was the final straw. I dropped the NU-S.N.P. like a hot brick. Have you ever tried contacting F.M. Sturgeon ?
            We only have two MPs at Westminster both from ALBA who are doing their very best STANDING UP for Scotland. The NU-S.N.P.s at Westminster just sit there in humility as they are being laughed at and ridiculed by the English MPs and don’t even have the guts to back out 2 ALBA MPs.
            Of course they are under strict orders from their British F.M. Sturgeon.

  11. Cathie Lloyd says:

    I take two issues away from this:
    1. a rather male view of political accomplishment. Looking for the big issues whatever they are, rather than subtle but powerful changes in things we value. Gerry did mention the baby box, but that has had a huge impact on peoples lives and a signal of what could happen in the every day with independence.
    2. I agree with the remarks that this is premature. Gerry is looking through the optic of short-lived leadership in Westminster where you can see the end even before the beginning. I dont agree that there is no strong team being built either Humza’s broad and successful experience is one example, the promotion of several women – Kate Forbes is one clear example – another.

    1. 220902 says:

      ‘…the baby box… has had a huge impact on peoples lives…’

      But has it? (To what need was it a response? What was the baseline measure of that need? What has been the outcome of that response/what difference has it made compared to that baseline measure? How has this difference been quantitatively and qualitatively measured?) Or has its value been more in the nature of propaganda, as a persuasive token of ‘what could happen in the every day with independence’.

      My niece has just had her first baby. She’s a GP and has more money than she can shake a rattle at. I don’t see how giving her baby a free baby box helps reduce inequality by giving him a better start in life than he would otherwise have had.

      I suspect there are more cost-effective (albeit less politically gimmicky) responses to the need to reduce inequalities among newborns that Nicola could have made.

  12. Julian Smith says:

    The first item on Gerry’s “roll call of failures” is Education. I take issue with this assertion. I would like to hear the grounds on which this allegation rests. So far, I’ve never heard any reliable evidence of failure. So, Gerry, let me hear the evidence.

    1. BSA says:

      No grounds are ever given. It’s just a propaganda one liner carefully inserted into Unionist statements and interviews and now a reflex. At least Gerry didn’t use the ridiculous ‘shambles’ word which is now standard, but it’s still inexplicable from someone with his grasp of Scottish affairs.

      1. Gerry Hassan says:

        HI there, Thanks for your comments Julian and BSA,

        I do think education and health as public services and in their outcomes are not in great shape in Scotland and on multiple measurements not making progress in the right direction. On education on the attainment gap between the most affluent and least affluent students this has shown no real narrowing over the past eight years; access to higher education from poorer backgrounds is worse than in England; and there is an advantage for privileged students at every level of education. Take one example which Scotland rarely talks about: the advantage gained by private school education in the HE sector. This has led to St Andrews University having over 40% of its UK students from private education; in Edinburgh University it is a bit less: just over 30%. St Andrews University now has the highest number of privately educated students in the entire UK – surpassing Oxford. This is something the Scottish Govt could act upon as it can shape the governance of HE.

        A bigger observation. Any politics of social justice let alone independence does not advance by trying to defend as some do every single scintilla of Scot Govt activities. Nor should we damn everything the Scot Govt does as opponents of indy do. Instead we should be having a nuanced discussion abt the state of our public services, assessing evidence and looking at the values and ideals which they are meant to be championing. Too often from some pro-indy supporters there is a blanket desire to defend the state of public services uncritically. That does not really aid debate, social justice or the politics of independence.

        1. Paddy Farrington says:

          I agree that it does mot serve any progressive agenda to defend uncritically every aspect of what the Scottish Government does. However, the problem is that every discussion of its achievements and its shortcomings has become weaponised, to such an extent that the facts themselves are often contested.

          To give an example: you write that Scotland lags England in access to University for students from the most deprived backgrounds; so I’d be genuinely interested to know what you make of this:

          1. Gerry Hassan says:

            Thanks for the link. I will take a look at these stats and reflect. Certainly in recent times Scotland has had a consistent problem lagging behind England on access to university for students from deprived areas and backgrounds.

          2. Paddy Farrington says:

            I would not be so certain that this is the case, Gerry. The comparative stats I’ve seen from a few years ago relate to admission to university at age 18, and I believe they did not take fully into account the fact that a proportion of Scottish students, notably from more deprived backgrounds, spend a while at college before applying to university.

        2. Julian Smith says:

          Please elaborate on what multiple measurements in Education you are referring to.
          Overall, I think you are really talking about entrenched privilege and systemic inequality, which hugely influence outcomes in education and health. And the debate should be about how to restructure an independent Scotland to achieve greater equality. Slogans like “closing the attainment gap” are unhelpful and distract from the actual problems facing our society.

          1. 220903 says:

            But all such debates are supposed to wait until after independence and the deal’s done, don’t you know? Now is not the time. Our support for independence must be unconditional.

          2. Julian Smith says:

            220903 Indeed! Although I think you are perhaps writing with tongue in cheek. A number of the problems cited by Gerry, drug, alcohol, nicotine addiction, deprivation, poverty, are common features of colonised, subjugated and abused populations. The asymmetric power structures in the U.K. facilitate and perpetuate this abusive relationship, whether intentionally or not. When everything else fails, and everything else has failed, the only way to deal with an abusive relationship and start the process of healing is for the relationship to be brought to an end. Only with a fresh start can we begin rebuilding the nation with a renewed sense of purpose.

          3. 220904 says:

            Granted! But I fail to see how making Scottish government independent of the UK will right the asymmetric power structures that a) comprise the current Scottish establishment, b) are sustained by the ideological forms with which those whom that establishment privileges colonise our lives, and c) ultimately generate the social ills of which you speak. The prospectus for independence leaves the status quo intact; it lacks any effective revolutionary moteur, which is itself a consequence of our colonisation by our ruling class.

            There will be no ‘rebuilding the nation’. The Scottish government is currently, in preparation for its independence, building the bureaucracy that will maintain the status quo in its administration of our lives.

          4. Niemand says:

            I tend to agree not much will change and the idea that Scotland’s problems can all be explained by its population being colonised, subjugated and abused, strengthens this, as it is a fantasy rationale in the first place. Scotland isn’t a colony and has not been colonised.

            So how can you create a better society based on a false premise of the reasons for its ills? Arguably, the constant reference to the idea it is all out of our hands because we are oppressed and subjugated by a foreign power and so are helpless, is the actual main problem because that feeling of helplessness won’t go away if independence is achieved.

            A properly functioning and good (SNP) government should already be well on the way to freeing people’s minds from ‘mental slavery’, whereas in fact they have made it worse. Nationalism needs an enemy to project all ills onto but at the end of the day if it offers nothing else it will probably fail.

          5. Julian Smith says:

            In reply to 220904 and Niemand, all I would say is Scotland has a number of the characteristics of a colonised population and is effectively governed from London with some relatively minor devolved powers that can “evolve backwards” when Westminster decides. For a fuller study of Scotland’s status, I can recommend “Doun Hauden” by Prof. Alf Baird. But the number of ruined settlements and place names like Fort William, Fort George and Ruthven Barracks leave me in no doubt that Scotland was a colony, was subjected to military occupation, had its culture and language suppressed and its natural resources expropriated. Dozens of former members of the British Empire have become successful independent countries. What is so uniquely incompetent about the people of Scotland that we wouldn’t be able to be at least as successful as all these other countries?

          6. 220904 says:

            I’m not denying that Scotland has been colonised. I deny the fascistic ethnic nationalism that asserts ‘we’ locally have been colonised by ‘the b*st*rd*n English’, and affirm instead that mankind globally has been colonised by knowledge systems that are an ideological expression and a legitimisation of capitalist relations of production and the inequalities and degradation they perpetuate. I also affirm that making Scottish government independent of UK government does nothing to liberate us globally or locally from that hegemony; it offers only an illusion of freedom.

          7. SleepingDog says:

            @Lord Parakeet the Cacophonist, ‘mankind’?! Slip of your patriarchal forked tongue? Surely Scottish independence is a rejection of the British Empire, whilst your British unionism, which you fail to apply the same standards of critique to, is support for the British Empire.

          8. Niemand says:

            Alf Baird also describes English people living in Scotland (for whatever reason) as ‘colonial occupiers’, a necessary idea to his justification that Scotland can officially be called a colony. This is not only false but a very insidious and dangerous notion for reasons that are obvious. I once asked him if he told his English neighbours to their faces that they were taking part in a colonial occupation but he never responded.

            I don’t deny there are aspects of the relationship between England and Scotland that can be characterised as colonial but to suggest this makes Scotland an actual colony of England and therefore justification for seeing the whole relationship that way is false, and will achieve nothing but further rancour and division.

          9. 220904 says:

            ‘Man’ is genderless, both as a noun and a verb. It derives from the ‘Mannus’, which (according to Tacitus) is the name given to their progenitor in the creation myths of the Germanic language communities, from which both Scots and English descend. In both Old English and Middle English/Old Scots, male and female ‘men’ were distinguished respectively by the prefixes ‘wer-’ and ‘wif-’. ‘Mankind’ therefore extends to all featherless plantigrade biped mammals of the genus Homo, and either males or females of the species can thus ‘man’ things like ships and gun-batteries and fire-engines.

            I still can’t see how, outside a fascistic ethnic nationalist narrative, making Scottish government independent of UK government would contribute to our decolonisation. ‘Leaving the UK’ or ‘rejecting the British Empire’ or ‘making Scottish government independent of UK Government’ (or however else you want to spin the ‘independence’ narrative) would only give us the illusion of freedom.

          10. SleepingDog says:

            @Lord Parakeet the Cacophonist, in modern English usage ‘man’ is gendered, you lying auld fraud. When used in ‘mankind’ to stand in for ‘humankind’ (as a synecdoche), it perpetuates the ‘male as norm’ contrivances of patriarchies.
            How are your examples ‘spinning’ independence? You want to stick with the British Empire, so why not just admit it? On independence, Scotland will leave the UK and the British Empire. To deny that is yet another dollop of your shamefully poor sophistry. It is you that is spinning this as a simple question of freedom.

            Seriously, in spite of your continuance to lecture us on colonised minds, your comments clearly show the disease in your patriarchal Eurocentric theocratic drivel, and surely your endless bluster on being repeatedly exposed as a charlatan convinces no-one.

            There is no constitutional escape from the British Empire for the home nations of the UK, including England (though others on the periphery have broken away). But you don’t compare the probabilities of exiting the Empire in the two choices of Independence and Union. Because to do that would be just, honourable, illustrative and productive.

          11. 220904 says:

            There’s certainly no constitutional precedent for a British nation leaving the Union, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. There was no constitutional precedent for a European nation leaving the EU, but the UK managed to do it. As you know, the British constitution is a work in perpetual progress, so Scotland leaving might well set the precedent. (And, to be honest, I’m more interested in seeing whether or not there will be any constitutional escape from Scotland for constituent polities like Dumgal, which didn’t vote for an SNP government (or to leave the UK) but had one imposed on them anyway. But that’s by-the-by; the matter of the democratic deficit within Scotland will no doubt be magicked away once its national government becomes independent.)

            And, no; I don’t frame the independence question in such dichotomous terms as you would find ‘just, honourable, illustrative and productive’, for the reasons that I rehearsed in the ‘High Noon’ thread: ‘Yes’/’No’ framings are divisive and destructive; a more dialogical approach is to be preferred. However, I concede to the consensus view that such an approach is beyond the current political culture in Scotland, since neither side in the conflict has any appetite for dialogue. and that a major paradigm shift would be required to get us out of the ‘Yes’/’No’, ‘all or nothing’, political impasse in which we find ourselves stuck and floundering as a nation.

  13. DAVE says:

    Well there is a lot of talking above and from posters. What is glaring missing is the substance of what is required for independence .

    1 ) All Scots need to know the true economic state of Scotland and just how rich we really are.
    2) Our history and Scottish heroes since 1707. We can also include our investors which will take several days to compile due to the huge list.

    F.M. Sturgeon , leader of the NU-S.N.P. has failed miserably on both counts. She has had over 8 years to stand up for Scotland but has chosen to beg and whinge to the English leadership at Westminster instead. Now we know the reason if we didn’t before. Her confession of being BRITISH tells it all. Her ‘leader’ at Westminster also has done nothing but just loves his life at Westminster. The NU-S.N.P. were NOT elected to accept the English penny which comes out of Scottish taxes and revenues in the trillions of pounds. They were elected to get our independence.

    Just like the Tories, Labour and LibDems and the English owned media (95%) up here Ms. Sturgeon has imposed a news BLACKOUT.

    WE will NEVER EVER get independence as long as the Murrells are in power. Fact: Ms. Sturgeon has NEVER said she wants independence. She has always said it is up the people of Scotland to decide and then does everything in her power to silence our voices.
    Her latest cringe was not to challenge the GERS numbers. A 23 Billion pounds deficit ( 23 THOUSAND MILLION POUNDS ) for a 5 .6 million population( Scotland) is an absolute lie. That’s 4 THOUSAND MILLION pounds for every Scottish man, women and child. If any NU-S.N.P. would like to tell us where that money is we are waiting. The British F.M. NU-S.N.P. leader has not said ONE word as usual. Let’s no forget that we have only 2 Scottish MPs at Westminster fighting for our independence BOTH FROM ALBA.

    After Ms. Sturgeon leaves office she will be known as one of the most useless leaders who did nothing for independence. If she had any integrity she would have resigned as she knew in 2014 she and her husband had NO intention of even trying to get out independence.

    1. DAVE says:

      Typo in my post of 6th of September. Should read INVENTORS not investors.
      SORRY ABOUT THAT………………………..

    2. 220906 says:

      Yep, we’re certainly done well since 1707 in terms of our enrichment and enterprise: in 1707, we were a failed state that still hanged heretics and whose subjects barely survived on a subsistence economy. The Union enabled us to escape all that.

      Of course, that’s not an argument for maintaining the status quo. Perhaps the Union as it has existed since 1707 has outlived its usefulness.

    3. Alec Lomax says:

      Ok, Rev.

  14. Dave says:

    Perhaps Mr. Hassan can provide us with a list of what actions the British F.M. NU-S.N.P. leader Ms. Sturgeon has done to get our independence in the last 8 years. I and all the other ex would love to know.

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