By Alec Ross
That was the phrase employed by Byron to describe the genius of Robert Burns in viewing things from the opposite perspective, of looking through the glass from the other side. From there, a deeper truth emerges.
Something has been bothering me and perhaps some antithetical thinking is required.
Pete Wishart MP recently wrote of piece in which he called for a gradual approach to securing Scotland’s self-determination. “Gentle persuasion”, he called it. We have to keep “making the case” for independence.
Let me tell you something. We really don’t. And here’s why.
Firstly, we’ve been making the case, on the whole fairly well, for eight years. Some have been making it for much longer. It’s fundamentally wrong that we should continually be asked to make the case and justify our support for something that is self-evident and an inalienable right. The burden of proof sits on the wrong shoulders. If there’s a case that needs defending, and there is, it’s the continuing and indefensible outsourcing of Scotland’s democratic process to an alien political culture run by people that we cannot ever vote out.
So Nicola Sturgeon is quite correct. The onus in 2020 must shift from the mandate for a new vote (there are several) to the justification for denying one (and there is none). And, by the way, “we fought Hitler together” doesn’t count. Neither does the NHS, which Boris et al want to sell on the cheap. And neither, frankly, does “you’ll have had your vote”. The mandate for continuing “union” was on a shoogly nail within hours of the first vote when David Cameron announced EVEL. It was on life support after the failure to deliver the “vow”. Brexit, mercifully, put it out of its misery.
So. A broken vow. EVEL. A power grab. A Brexit Scotland rejects but which is now unequivocally happening.
And yet it’s not absolutely certain that Scotland would win its independence in a fresh vote. Despite everything, it’s still a 50/50 call. It’s disingenuous to believe that the polls in favour of Yes will definitely rise when the super-charged Brexit austerity kicks in, that folk will make the Damascene conversion and cross the Rubicon. Because the Brexit vote, and he recent election, show that often when things get bad the opposite happens – and people double down of their views. Plus, given time, everything becomes normal. The danger is that if we leave it too long we simply acquiesce.
And, secondly, a large proportion of Scots – for reasons of history, religion, class, wealth, land ownership, culture, loyalty to the crown and even football allegiance – will always vote for London rule. It’s a shibboleth, an article of faith, and we simply have to acknowledge that it exists.
Sometimes, it’s paradoxically those with least to lose who are most immune to forecasts of food and medicine shortages. If your life is without hope, a government impact report is hardly going to frighten you. Not when you’re already queuing at the local foodbank.
Equally fallacious, I think, is the notion that there is an army of undecided people out there desperate to be persuaded. There really isn’t. I’ll be honest with you – I’ve yet to meet a single person who’s said: “boy, we were sold a pup last time. I’m up for independence, where do I sign?”
So who am I supposed to be persuading? Is there genuinely anybody who has followed Scottish politics in this be last decade and still cannot make up their mind? There is nothing else we can say and continuing to make the case and gently persuading people feels utterly pointless. Mike Russell was writing last week about independence “by the end of the decade”. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t talking about last night’s Hogmanay.
Talk of a long game tires me and I fear that we are in danger of losing all our carefully built up momentum if we delay a second longer.
We’ve invested a lot in this. We’ve emptied the tank and left nothing on the park. It’s caused strains in my friendships and tensions at home. I’ve committed time to a project that I didn’t really have. But I did it anyway. And I just want to know that I haven’t been wasting my time, that it wasn’t in vain.
But we won’t win by appealing to the morality and fairness of politicians who possess neither virtue and who consider us a nuisance on the rare occasions they think about us at all. They won’t be persuaded, gently or otherwise.
In the end, the primary responsibility of any leader is to the well-being of her people. Brexit presents an existential threat to Scotland and therefore the First Minister must with immediate effect remove us from this bouroch at the earliest possible opportunity by whatever means available. Not by the end of the decade. But now.
A new year brings fresh opportunities and new hope. We can choose to become a newly modern, median-sized normal independent country. Or we can be part of isolationist, disaster-capitalist, Empire 2.0 Brexit Britain.
Eight years. I’m done in, scunnered with making the case for something that should never have to be made. With begging for what’s already ours. Defending a position that shouldn’t need defending. With apologising for wanting the normality that everyone else takes as a given. And I’m done with gentle persuasion.
We can’t win without the oxygen of a campaign. Let’s call this. Because, whatever else happens, it’s always better to be yourself.
Happy New Year everyone.
Nicely called Alec – we need to get on with it …
I completely understand your point. But why have Indyref2 when we’re still not sure if there’s yet a solid majority for Yes? Lose it this time and we can forget it indefinitely. I’d prefer to hold off until the younger generations, who are most definitely pro Indy, dominate the electorate and deliver 60%+ for Indy. And if that takes a further 5 to 10 years, I’m fine with it.
Leave it till the younger generation become older, become more fixed in their ways, become more conservative (small c) and start to worry about their pensions? Leave it till then, you mean?
Happy New Year, Alec!
I am a regular reader of you column in The Orkney News, even though I’m Swiss. I do have a thirty year history of holidays and deep interest in Scotland, especially Orkney, and since summer 2018 I have a small house there which I intend to occupy as soon as I’m retired.
I am determined never to discuss Scottish/Orcadian politics with the people who have spent their lives there and bring with them the whole history and background of their country’s political development and past, as I am most aware of the differences one’s roots make, and I in no way feel in the right to intrude on other nation’s internal discussions as far as taking sides.
But I got caught on one of your sentences: “Plus, given time, everything becomes normal.”
Even membership in the EU does, and maybe the times get forgotten when the EU didn’t exist yet and independent countries worked together (more or less…) for a common wealth, while carrying their own home country’s wellbeing at heart all the same.
As a citizen of a country with a very old history of self-reliance and a strong urge towards self-government including a certain allergy to being told what to do I feel that though membership in the EU truly has it’s benefits and has a lot to say for it, not being a member does not automatically catapult a nation into a financial or ecological abyss, nor does it mean it’s citizens don’t care about Europe as a whole and won’t take part in European issues.
Having to take back individual responsibility after leaving a community that took many regulations off the country’s hands is taxing and difficult, and I understand all who think it’s not worth the trouble. But it isn’t a sure path into an abyss, either – there is a livable life beyond.
From my very Swiss point of view it is not Brexit itself that ought to be a main issue when it comes to discussions about Scotland’s independance, but the Scottish people’s right to make their own choice, whatever it may turn out to be. (And judging from matters in my home country, a lost momentum is rarely recovered…)
Alec, when they keep bleating on about ‘you’ve had your referendum I remembered that in the ‘Good Friday Agreement’ it allows for a ‘Border Poll’ and sets the gap between holding such ‘United Ireland’ polls at SEVEN YEARS, so why should we be any different? Let’s remind them of this fact as often as possible, like every hour of every day.
I agree with every word. I have been in despair every time I read an SNP politician talking about delay. I have begun to believe that our MPs have become seduced by the honeypots of Westminster. They should walk out tomorrow! Brexit and Johnson are the best chance we will ever have. Grab it now!
Alex I am an avid reader of your articles and posts and you have written consistently your beliefs and reasons why we should be independent , which with respect should be evident to undecideds if they are paying attention to the clusterbourach that is the wastemonster establishment
But I am of the opinion that Nicola Sturgeon has let Scotland down badly by not holding to account the lies and misinformation spread daily by a biased MSM and broadcast media , even when SNP representatives have been interviewed they have allowed the bias and lies to go on unchallenged
They should have been producing easily read illustrations of just how wealthy Scotland’s resources are and denouncing and illustrating just how much Scotland ‘s wealth is being STOLEN and used to benefit the rest of the uk , instead they are continually on the back foot
I am hoping that I am completely misunderstanding this article altogether. What it appears to be saying is that Scotland should become independent without an attempt to win over a majority of the people who live here. That is neither democratic nor does it respect the sovereignty of the Scottish people.
I think some clarification is required.
Good article on putting the onus on WM to justify the union if a bit pessimistic on getting YES to above 50%
Happy new year Alec and family🎻🎉 You are right but the spectre of Catalonia is in the background. BJ and his parcel of rogues are smiling villains and feel they would conjure up forces against Scotland and the people. They have too much to loose and will use every strategy to hold on to Scotland. We are seen as a colony. I hope Nicola has a few aces up her sleeves.
The phrase “Softly softly catchee monkey” somehow doesn’t apply when faced with a nasty Gorilla,
(Apologies to Gorillas everywhere)
If it shits on you then you’ve got a problem,
I agree wholeheartedly with you Alec. The YES movement has worked tirelessly since 2014 to champion the true facts relating to Scotlands wealth and social ambitions. We have retained a fierce loyalty to the SNP in the belief that it is the political vehicle committed to deliver an Indyref2 and the latest GE results for SNP are due in no small measure to the efforts of various YES groups across the country. That said, I fear that the “master plan” being followed by the SNP hierarchy does NOT include a referendum this year, but will be kicked down a rocky road in the belief that the SNP will gain a majority in the Scot Parl elections in 2021. This procrastination would, I believe, prove to be fatal for our chances of gaining independence – the GE produced 45%,support for SNP which only included 47% of 18-25 year old voters ? A repeat of this, together with 16-18 year olds and EU citizens votes would give us a positive majority ! There is NO mandate for delay – the SNP need to act NOW.
What I can never understand is the reluctance of the SNP spokespersons when they are on the radio or tv to talk about Trident. Every time they are on a political program they should speak directly to the audience and viewers and remind everyone that they are the ONLY political party who will get rid of nuclear weapons from Scottish waters. They should be appealing to the viewers and asking if they really want their kids and grandkids growing up in an environment where a nuclear accident at Faslane would likely see the central belt of Scotland being a no go area. Apart from the deaths it would mean the end of Scotland as a tourist destination.
The situation we are in is closer to 1979-1997, than 2011-2014
We will need majority support for Independence BEFORE we get a vote. That means the long game is the only practical route. The 36 week timetable in the Referendum Bill means a 2020 referendum is unlikely. Personally I think we will have a better chance of winning in 2022-2024, because of the demographics. We will need to win in 2021. I would welcome another genuine pro Indy party, to replace the Greens
I remain a member of the SNP, despite a degree of complacency and entitlement creeping in. That comes with success I guess, unfortunately. Nicola is good but not infallible. Hopefully her successor will be a little less presidential.
We will be cheated again
We can will do it, we are the life and breath of this SOVEREIGN NATION we are the SCOTTISH people our ANCESTORS have lived and died on this soil we don’t have to beg for this land it is ours let’s get on with it .
I’m glad you love Orkney,and visit often.You implied you didn’t think you had the right to interfere in Scottish politics,so please don’t .
I think you are wrong, Alec farms in Dumfries and Galloway so he has every right to comment on Scottish Politics!!!!
I didn’t imply anything of the sort. And I live in Scotland. Having an opinion on the direction of the Scotland I live in is hardly interfering. I’d have thought that was was my democratic right. Your intervention is by some distance the most bizarre and extraordinary I’ve yet encountered. And there’s been some crackers.
Thanks for this in any case. And a good new year to you. Slainte.
Back on the 19th Sept 2014, I stated we had a limited timescale, window of opportunity to deliver IndyRef2, in line with all of you comment above.
EVEL should have been the trigger to relaunch that campaign, as it was indicative of how Westminster would respect Scotland’s voice in the years to come.
We set about delivering the 2015 GE and sent 56 Pro Independence MPs out of 59 Seats to settle up, not settle in. And since then we have been fortunate to have experienced the absolute breakdown of not only Labour, but also Tories in the years since. Which has allowed us to extend that dateline. It has nothing to do with the softly softly approach. This luck will runout. #OurTimeIsNow to take the bulls by the horn. The case has been made and in dispute with some of your comment Alec, the move from No to Yes has taken place. Not only do we have more youth support, we have the soft votes who chose No on the basis of the “Vow” and all our Europeans who remain here. The announcement of the date will fire the starting gun hopefully for a short sharp campaign and that support will explore. We in the #YesMovement #ThePeople’s Party and #ScottishDigitalCovenant hope to play a part in that campaign this year.
“that support will explode”
Pat, like many we all share the frustrations after 2014, but you have to be realistic, a straight drive for Indy2 immediately after Cameron inflicted EVEL on us on the doorstep of No10 would have failed. Take a look at the Belfast agreement where they set the ‘Time Gap’ between Irish Unity Referendums is not less than every SEVEN YEARS this gives us a much better hammer to beat Boris’s over the head with. Personally I would use a ‘5lb Lump Hammer’, LOL.