If not now, when ?

I do some of my best political thinking and talking while walking the dog 

Magnus the dog Credit Steve Sloan

In fairness he doesn’t really seem to be particularly interested , except where I talk about Larry the Cat and then his ears prick up. 

Sometimes his  attention wanders when he sees a rabbit and he then tries to engage it in some urgent  discourse . He is singularly unsuccessful. No rabbit will be evicted from No 10 Watershed Down on his watch . He says the right things, he makes the right gestures, his posture is as you would expect it to be. He seems content in the chase and small victories rather than really affecting the big picture. Sometimes I wonder if he is closet Liberal Democrat? 

Occasionally I also talk to humans, though early morning walks are my way of getting my  mind set for the day so I tend to go early and try to avoid them . There are however  some friends that I always look forward to meeting . I met one today . Actually we are only “ walk friends “ we don’t interact in any other way but generally can spend a good half hour chatting as our dogs do their own thing. 

In my dog’s case that often turns towards some form of misguided  amorous intent towards his but in this he is clearly no politician because he is always unsuccessful.

My friend is a very successful businessman in his mid 60s, Scottish and a SNP supporter until a few years ago.  He voted for independence in 2014 and was was disappointed when it was unsuccessful . He said that in 2016 when the Brexit vote came through he was devastated, he didn’t see either that, or his reaction to it,  coming. I felt the same, and had a conversation with another friend about this recently. She said it was as if independence was something that you wanted but didn’t get while being European was something that you owned and was removed from us all in Scotland without our permission, theft if you like. A bit like being mugged . I get that . 

As I alluded to my walking friend is a businessman and applied a business approach to his 2014 and 2016 disappointments . His mantra is “ Affect those things you can control and influence and leave those you can’t to others .” With independence at least a generation away as he saw it then, he applied himself to closer things; his business, his family . As he did, so his political allegiances changed, he voted differently and he put his mind to getting the best out of what we have . Now, for him,  was not the time . 

But he has changed his mind. 

Another friend who has also swung in his pattern of thinking has his business  based at home but with international connections . People it seems assume  that you will behave in the same way as they do at the top of the political tree. If our country cannot be trusted to keep to a treaty why should they believe that we will keep to a contract? If that is the state of our UK values now,  then is it a British illness that like COVID can sweep through us in waves? Bonds of trust worked at for decades are now questioned. 

“ We are not the laughing stock of Europe, we are the laughing stock of the world. Far from the great Brexit Dream we should be campaigning to have “Great” removed from Great Britain because we no longer deserve it .” 

This is a very straightforward man, practical pragmatic not someone who over-reacts. He is happy to say that his family consider him to be boring, it is a vision of stability he has worked at and cherishes. 

But to illustrates a point, reputation takes decades to earn and minutes or a few lies to bring it down. That applies to Nations as much as to people. 

So back to my friend of this morning’s walk. 

Alister Jack Photo credit: Chris McAndrew

He became the second person in two days to say “ Jack is Toast .” I hope Alister likes that for breakfast because it seems he is getting a lot  of it, that’s two votes down in two conversations. ( And I didn’t even have to try .) 

My friend has also completely returned to his pre 2016 position, SNP not because he really likes their mode of Government but because he sees them as the only realistic route to Independence and he now sees that as essential. 

In away it is understandable ? If you care about your family then there is a time when you have to address what is going to be important  to their futures and not your present.  Business in that context becomes less important than potential and painting a picture of a society in which a small nation and your children and grand children can thrive, like;  Ireland , Denmark, Norway. 

It is in that context that the “ now is not the time “ mantra is absurd. 

I listened last night to Andrew Bridgen the Conservative MP make a throw away remark denying that  the current political crisis  is making the case for Irish Unity and Scottish Independence . 

Bridgen  himself is no stranger to controversy. 

He is an outspoken supporter of Brexit, supported Johnson’s comment about Muslim women and Burkas. He was outspoken about MPs being underpaid, criticised HS2 yet took compensation from them for his house, supported Johnson for leader and submitted a demand for his resignation on the grounds of the “ moral vacuum.”  Earlier this year a Judge in the High Court said he “lied under oath and behaved in an abusive, arrogant and aggressive manner”, was “an unreliable and combative witness who tried to conceal his own misconduct”, and “gave evasive and argumentative answers and tangential speeches that avoided answering the questions”. 

Bridgen’s comment was that it was pointless to talk about independence etc because the Countries would be fighting to keep in the wonderful Britain that Brexit and the Conservative Party would deliver . 

We should listen to such an example of Conservative right wing values very seriously. Then do the exact opposite . 

Other than denial of the right for self determination, where  is the argument for Union? Even my friends who are very strong Unionists are now becoming distinctly uncomfortable because they are not hearing the arguments made for their case. Perhaps it is because in the current climate, to try to make them, would  tax credibility  further than it has been already?

From Labour, we have heard some vacuous suggestions about a Federal Britain that stands exactly zero chance of being implemented and probably even a very small chance of getting to their own manifesto. . Starmer was noisy about Federalism  in 2020 yet it is  so important to Labour that they have not developed the idea. Possibly because the penny has dropped that selling a diminished role to their block vote, is not a vote winner? 

However well intentioned their ideas might be, the fundamental reality is that Scotland in Union is a  junior partner where the senior partner holds the purse  strings and we have a ( lack of ) constitution which skews towards them determining the political direction . In the absence of a credible Federal alternative, and there isn’t one, independence becomes the gold standard for self determination . 

Now is not the time ? Seriously? 

We are about to have the future of 67 million people in the UK and 5.4 million in Scotland determined by around 100,000 members of a  political party who are naturally ill disposed to the social democratic values of Scotland and whose average age it is claimed is 72. 

Now is not the time,   when our economy is fractured and Conservative pandering  to votes will see economic policy that favours the short term and drives inflation up further?

Now is not the time when the favourites for leadership in  the Conservative Party were all complicit in keeping a liar in leadership until their own sorry skins became vulnerable?

 Let us not pretend that it will be easy because surely it will not, but  as my walker friend has concluded for himself, now very much is the time.

I’m not much younger than the average Tory Party member but there is one thing I know, the future is not mine it’s my son’s and my grand daughter’s. My plea to every waverer on independence is this  “ don’t think in your own skin “ think in that of your children. Right now is not the future but you have the chance right now to make a better future .

Now is very much the time . 

My dog may be getting longer walks, I hope we are both up to it . 

( If not now, when, alludes to two people who have influenced me , the rabbinical thinker Hillel the Elder and Primo Levi who wrote a book under the Italian title ” Se non ora, quando ? )

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  1. To paraphrase a well-known anthem……

    The people’s flag

    Is brightest blue

    Crossed by a broad

    White line or two.


    It stands for Scotland

    Standing free

    Not bound by force

    Or adversity.


    So raise the blue-bright

    Banner high

    Beneath its shade

    We’ll live and die


    Though cowards flinch

    And traitors sneer

    We’ll keep the Saltire

    Flying here!


    BB – 2021

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