Don’t Wait Around for Judgement Day

DON’T WAIT AROUND FOR JUDGEMENT DAY: From The Province of The Cat by George Gunn

I had thought about waiting for the decision of the Supreme Court on the Scottish Governments competence to hold a referendum on independence, or not, before writing this. But I think it is unhealthy to hang around waiting for Judgement Day. My conviction that Scotland should be a normal, independent European country is not going to be weakened or strengthened by what a set of English High Court Judges have to say on the matter – even if one of them is allegedly Scottish. I doubt whether they will even have considered the history of the question the Scottish Government has put to them to answer. Law, whomsoever the law serves and for whom the law is designed to benefit, tends to be teleological.


The dictionary definition of teleology (or finality) is a reason or an explanation for something which serves as a function of its end, its purpose, or its goal, as opposed to something which serves as a function of its cause. A purpose that is imposed by human use, such as the purpose of a fork to hold food, is called extrinsic. I would say that the purpose of our sovereignty, its necessity, is to let the people of Scotland grow and thrive and have the capacity to make our own decisions and not be dependent on the will of another government we did not vote for. We can learn to hold our own fork. Extrinsically.

Life, of course, is never that straightforward. As the great John Steinbeck noted in his slim book, “The Log From The Sea Of Cortez” (1941),

“An answer is invariably the parent of a great family of new questions. So we draw worlds and fit them like tracings against the world about us, and crumple them when they do not fit and draw new ones.”

One thing is certain – whatever the Supreme Court in London decides, in reality it is of no lasting use to the Scots. As Steinbeck noted we have to draw new tracings. There is nothing to be gained by waiting for the British State to show goodwill to Scotland and her people. That is never going to happen, whether it be in granting independence or reciprocity in currency – or anything else. They will continue to exploit what they can from our natural and human resources for as long as we let them.

We must utilize every moment we have to learn and we have to learn from the bottom up. The English Tories want us to button our lips and doff our caps and do what we are telt. They want to corral us in. Those days are over. We have to learn to look around the whole circle – of what our people and our country can become – and not just deal with the bits and pieces that are given to us and the scraps of freedom handed down to us by Westminster. The Anglo-centric, Scottish belittling, media would be happy to stop us thinking at all. That there is a majority for independence in Scotland is a miracle of the collective will. The cause of that is decade after decade of London power. Power devolved is power retained. A block granted local administration is not democracy.

The good news is that there is more than one way to move forwards to independence and to create the freedom we need to organise and plan. To think that there is only one way – the judicial way – is to signal the inevitable decline of the independence movement and that is something Scotland cannot afford. The people need hope and that is contained in alternatives. To say “yes” to something is to be fluid, open. Only by being willing to be flexible and to adapt to the ever changing nature of our political and social environment will we move our cause forwards as an argument and a movement: a movement that generates its energy from its grassroots. That is also where we find our bravery and our daring. If we do that and keep our ideal in focus we will progress and eventually succeed, Supreme Court or no Supreme Court. Whatever they decide, (aye, naw or mebbe’s aye, mebbe’s naw) theirs is not the answer we need.

Here is John Steinbeck again, searching in the Sea of Cortez for “something”,

“The factors we have been considering as ‘answers’ seem to be merely symbols or indices, relational aspects of things — of which they are integral parts — not to be considered in terms of causes and effects. The truest reason for anything’s being so is that it is. This is actually and truly a reason, more valid and clearer than all the other separate reasons, or than any group of them short of the whole. Anything less than the whole forms part of the picture only, and the infinite whole is unknowable except by being it, by living into it.”

We do not need to seek approval from others to the fact that we exist. Scotland is a country – “it is”, as Steinbeck has it. That Scotland’s future should be decided upon by her people is a reality, an actuality, “actually and truly a reason, more valid and clearer than all the other separate reasons”. John Steinbeck was diving in the Sea of Cortez with his marine biologist friend Ed Ricketts in 1940, at a time when humanity’s most ferocious war (so far) was rupturing the world. We Scots are diving in the Sea of Possibility at a time of existential crisis for both democracy and capitalism. This, too, may rupture the world.

The fools and braying donkeys that rule over us keep telling us that “now is not the right time” or “it is too early to say”, when in reality it is never the right time or the wrong time: but, as ever, the time is now. That is all we know. That is what they fear. The other reality is that we will never know, early or late, what is coming next and it is not enough to say that we cannot know or judge because all the information is not in. The information is never all in. Anyway, as the Tories prove daily, the process of gathering knowledge does not lead to knowing. They have all the information they need and yet they still cause chaos and misery for the majority and care little about the consequences.

As is exampled by Jeremy Hunt seeking to put blame on the recession the UK economy is in, and will stay in for a long time, on any exterior factor he could find. The Covid pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the Grey Man of Beinn MacDuibh, anything but the reality of chronic fiscal mismanagement, serial and habitual corruption and the sheer folly of leaving the biggest single market in the world, which leaves cities like Glasgow and Dundee depressed and the South East of England buoyant. Glaswegians and Dundonians suffer for this economic self-harming vandalism whilst London protects its own. This is not “levelling up”. It is ”levelling down”. The poor pay. The rich count their profits. It’s the Tory way. This is Brexit. This is the disaster that dare not speak its name. This is the dark matter in our constitutional and political universe.

As it stands – waiting around for Judgement Day or not – everything the Tories touch turns to shite on the beach. Yet come the next UK General Election which is scheduled to be held no later than January 2025, after the Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Act 2022 repealed the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 (another Tory dog dance), a significant amount of Scots – or people living in Scotland – will vote Conservative. Why? Again, this proves that the process of gathering knowledge does not lead to knowing. Or perhaps they listen to BBC Scotland which allows Jeremy Hunt and other Tories to prattle on uninterrupted for as long as it takes to establish their myths? Or is it that people who vote for the Tories are of a certain demographic, or that they do so because they are stuck in some past groove that never actually existed? Or ar they people – and this is contentious but born out of observation – who have settled in Scotland (and they are welcome, every one) but who are anxious about becoming foreigners once the country gains her independence. This anxiety was expressed to me by two friends of mine before the 2014 referendum. “But how can we be foreigners or you be foreigners to us?” I tried to reassure them. “You live in Dunbeath!” Also they cannot all be money-grabbing sociopaths. Can they? No, they can’t! The two folk in question were originally from Hastings and were good people. Whether they voted Tory or No I do not know. As Steinbeck put it “An answer is invariably the parent of a great family of new questions.”

“No one,” Hannah Arendt observed, “has ever counted truthfulness as a political virtue.” Recently, Prime Minister after Prime Minister, Chancellor after Chancellor, Home Secretary after Home Secretary have proven that. Rishi Sunak, Jeremy Hunt and Suella Braverman are the latest incumbents and three reasons why we cannot sit around waiting for Judgement Day – either from a Supreme Being or a Supreme Court. Both are unbelievable.

A future for Scotland in a Tory run post-Brexit Britain will mean starving and malnourished children from Caithness to Carlops. Democracy will be reduced and eroded like a sea stack by the relentless surge of reactionary ideology. Corruption will become a way of life and race and gender crimes will increase like a virus. Illiteracy, social decay and destitution will afflict more and more people – daily, surprisingly, fatally. These are the real and overwhelming legacies of Tory rule. And increasingly it will be ruling as opposed to governing.

As Dr Elliot Bulmer lamented soberly in the Sunday National (20.11.22),

“The UK Government’s agenda remains a characteristically Tory one: authoritarian, British Nationalist, ant-constitutional, anti-European, pro-rich, anti-worker and anti-public services. Fundamental human rights, democracy itself and ethics in public life continue to be under strain. It is Johnsonian without the bling and the bungs.

Yet it is a government essentially out of control. It must respond to events that it cannot control, because in abandoning Europe it has destroyed the economic foundations of the whole economy. Yes, there are global pressures, but only the United Kingdom has, in effect, put itself under an economic blockade and destroyed its own export industry. This is now painfully apparent.”

It is also painful waiting around for Judgment Day. We must have hope that we in Scotland can do better. I believe that from hope springs action. In our hope is our joy, our creativity, our wealth, our future. The Tories – and capitalism in general – measures wealth in money. This is destructive. Painfully so. It leads to wars, pandemics, famine and then, inevitably, to extinction. But nothing is inevitable, except death. Life is about possibilities, decisions, choice. Despite what Jeremy Hunt says, cash is not invincible. The labyrinth of debt his government inflicts upon us all tells us that money is fragile. His real agenda is that we will fear debt so much we will be contained within that fear. But that, in itself, is futile. We, the rabble, will burst out of that mythic bubble. The Scottish people have a different agenda. In our collective imagination is our living, breathing future and, I hope, it bears no similarity to the one offered to us by Jeremy Hunt, or the Supreme Court. Whatever the “legal” ruling is, we will have to overcome, and we will.

There is an anonymous poem, circa 2nd–8th century, from Palestine, that I love. I do not know who translated it but no matter how ancient it is it is thoroughly modern and full of hope.

“To rise on high
and descend below,
to ride the chariot’s wheels
and explore in the world,
to wander on earth
and contemplate splendour,
to draw on the crown
and sound Glory,
to utter praises
and link letters,
to utter names
and behold what is
above and below,
to know the meaning
of the living
and see the vision
of the dead.
To ford rivers of fire
and know lightning.”

That we will have to ford rivers of fire and know lightning before we in Scotland get the constitutional result we desire I have no doubt. So be it. Judgement Day can wait for itself.


©George Gunn 2022

Comments (7)

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  1. Meg Macleod says:

    Some of your words should be on the side of a bus…….to remind folk what is…..

  2. Malcolm Kerr says:

    Well said. I agree, waiting for an English court judgement is embarrassing, like the obsequious behaviour of the SNP MPs. We’ll get nowhere without a leadership which can demonstrate some political will and the capacity to grasp opportunities. We need that hunger. We are not going to be given anything.

  3. greum maol stevenson says:

    This recent piece by Maria Popova complements this one:

    1. George Gunn says:

      Yes, absolutely. She is a source of wisdom and joy.

  4. John Wood says:

    Well said George.

    I’d just comment that there are a lot of ‘English’ people like me who will be straight into the queue for Scottish passports as soon as it opens. I am an English Scot: a Cockney by birth, but a Teuchter by adoption. It is not a contradiction in terms. I arrived in Highland in 1994 because I wanted to live here, and because of a respect for and a wish to better understand and promote its cultural heritage. I voted for the Scottish Parliament, and found a lot of other incomers did too. I campaigned for independence in 2014 and on the doorstep found a lot of people with an English background were very strongly ‘Yes’. ‘White settlers’ do exist, for sure – I have had to put up with my share of them. Some of them have assumed all ‘English’ must be Unionists and been critical of me for my supposed ‘disloyalty’. But the strongest supporters of the Union are not actually ‘English’ but ‘British’ from other parts of the British Empire – like many of the current Westminster government. The most extreme Unionists I have found to be (Lowland) Scots of the Orange Order persuasion who, like Bob Dylan’s poor whites in his song ‘Only a Pawn in their Game’ have been manipulated over many years into thinking their loyalty to the Empire gives them a right to march around on 12 July, trying to intimidate the rest of us – especially any Gaelic speakers. It seems to me that as the Empire finally collapses, the supposed reflected glory is getting a little tarnished. I hope so.

    Since at least the days of the Roman Empire, which claimed overlordship over the whole island but was unable to achieve it in practice, the people of the north of this island has been disparaged and mocked by many of those who lived within the Roman province as somehow uncivilised and literally beyond the pale. That attitude pre-dated the arrival of English, but it was picked up in the 17th-20th c by the rising British Empire which trained its administrators in the classics and looked to Rome as its predecessor.

    However, beyond the frontier is found exactly the place and the people where the rebel, the disaffected and the refugee have always found welcome. For over 1000 years, there have been ‘Scots’ with Irish, Welsh, English, Scandinavian and other origins. According to Bede, the Picts too were incomers, assisted to settle in eastern Scotland by the Gaels. The Northern and Western Isles did not become part of the Kingdom of Scotland until the 13th – 15th c.

    So please do not allow the ‘British’ establishment to divide and rule us based on ethnicity. Tacitus, describing the battle of Mons Graupius in 83 CE, puts into Calgacus’ mouth a great speech which includes these words:
    “But there is no nation beyond us; nothing but waves and rocks, and the still more hostile Romans, whose arrogance we cannot escape by obsequiousness and submission. These plunderers of the world, after exhausting the land by their devastations, are rifling the ocean: stimulated by avarice, if their enemy be rich; by ambition, if poor; unsatiated by the East and by the West: the only people who behold wealth and indigence with equal avidity. To ravage, to slaughter, to usurp under false titles, they call empire; and where they make a solitude, they call it peace.” It would seem to me that their successors are still at it.

    The fact is that whatever the ‘British’ supreme court says, the Claim of Right is fundamental to Scotland, and ‘King’ Charles has sworn to uphold it this year. Scotland is a sovereign country, with a sovereign people. It was never part of Roman Britain, and it was only made part of the British Empire by corruption and treachery.

    We have only to assert that fact, and tear up the Treaty of Union as the Westminster government do their own international treaties. There is nothing to fear but fear itself – but that is the biggest stumbling block to be faced. All colonised peoples are fed the lie that they are too poor, too wee, too stupid. It keeps them in subjection.

    However I do think we need to start putting forward a strong case for doing things differently. And a good starting point might be to insist that, in Scotland, people and planet come before private greed and private profit. Every time. And no-one is above Scots law.

    1. John Wood says:

      Just to add that before anyone points this out, of course I’m aware that Scotland south of the Antonine Wall did briefly form part of the Roman Empire – for about 8 years (154 – 162 CE). Although there were Roman outposts further north, that’s all they were.

  5. Paul Packham says:

    Good piece George. Of course independence will not be won through the courts or the ballot box for that matter. An equal society built from below is one that can achieve real independence. Therefore you are correct in saying we will have to ford rivers of fire and know lightning before achieve our aims.
    The thing is here though, the river of fire and the lightning must be our own making.

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