Post-Nationalist Scotland

“Patriotism is, fundamentally, a conviction that a particular country is the best in the world because you were born in it….” ― George Bernard Shaw

Yesterday my wife and I took part in a fascinating radio interview looking at how people, particularly migrants to Scotland, have come to support independence. I hope I’ll be able to share it with you in a month or so when it’s due to be published though at this stage I have no idea how much – if any – of our conversation will make the final cut (the programme is expected to be about ten minutes long, we talked for over an hour and the interviewer spoke to several people apart from us). As one might expect the conversation looked, in part, at the nature of Nationalism in Scotland and how that is viewed by both migrants and the countries from which they came. That part of the conversation got me thinking about my own views on Nationalism and where Scotland is, or could go, as part of our journey towards independence.

Be assured, that this isn’t going to be another lazy attack on Nationalism as we have seen levelled against proponents of Scottish Independence (particularly by those who wave their own flags just as hard under the more sanitised name of Patriotism or National Unity). Indeed, I shall defend at least the logic of Nationalism later in this piece. But I shall lay out why I think it only takes us so far in the philosophy of independence and set out a proposition that there is perhaps a hint of what an independent Scotland could look like in a post-nationalist world.

(And yes, I appreciate the irony of writing this on a day when a lot of folk are watching groups of men defined by their national identity kick a ball around. I never was one for Football.)

binary comment

Continue reading

Scottish Elections 2021:- The Results

“Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.” – Abraham Lincoln

A strange election in strange times has, after more than the usual delay, returned a result that seems almost strangely familiar. Prior to the 2016 election, the “received wisdom” was that the majority SNP government was going to come back to power with that majority and thus usher in five years of “boring government” under a “one party state”. Instead, we got a minority government and everything that followed from that. This time round, the challenge to “restore” that majority government was rejected and we again find ourselves with a Parliament that looks really quite similar to the one in 2016. Many of the names have changed, many of the seats have not. The SNP have fallen one seat short of a majority, the Tories remain the “2nd party” by equalling their previous tally, the Greens have increased their ranks and Labour and the Lib Dems have reduced. Despite enthusiastic campaigning by their activist, no new parties have entered Parliament and none have left either (though the Lib Dems have dropped below the “major party” threshold which may have significant implications for them). From a pure democratic stance, at 63% the turnout was the highest of the devolution era – despite or in spite of fears that the pandemic would suppress it. More voters is always a good thing. As is diversity in the Parliament with record numbers of women, people of colour and other underrepresented groups in the House.

A full breakdown of the results in each constituency and region can be found here.

image_2021-05-09_101059

(Source here)

There will be discussion over the coming days about the makeup of Government and whether the SNP continue to run as a minority or whether they form a formal coalition – most likely with the Greens. For my part, with a track record of two minority governments I think that a coalition is unlikely and my preference would be against one anyway for reasons I’ll detail below but primarily because of my feeling laid out on Thursday that a Government that can rely on whipped loyalty will make less good decisions than one that has to justify itself to Parliament.

The call for a second independence referendum must now intensify. There is a Parliamentary majority capable of passing a referendum bill and instructing the Government to proceed with its manifesto promise. Indeed, between the SNP and the Greens there is now as many pro-independence MSPs in Parliament now as there were in 2011 when the first indyref was initiated. Mandates are sure to be traded – some more, some less valid – and we’re still lacking an effective pressure campaign to keep the tactical and strategic advantage on our side, but I think it is likely now that the only person who can actively prevent an independence referendum within the next Scottish Parliament is now Nicola Sturgeon. The campaign is there for her to take and run with.

For more detailed analysis of each of the parties and the overall political landscape, keep reading below the fold.

Continue reading

To Those We Are About To Elect

“Leadership is about vision and responsibility, not power.” – Seth Berkley

This has been an unusual election, put upon us by unusual times. The pressures of the global Covid pandemic here in Scotland have greatly limited electoral campaigning (though I do believe there’s a bright future ahead for digital and semi-digital hustings and other meetings) and the count itself has been extended to allow for the safety of the staff involved. The grand tradition of watching over-tired politicians and pundits trying to say nothing for as long as possible between 10pm and the first results coming in was pretty much absent in Scotland this year. Normally, around this time, I’d be reporting on the results and my analysis of them but as things stand we’re not expecting the first Constituency results in Scotland until this evening and as the Regional results can only be tallied once all of the Constituency results are in, we’re not expecting the final results until Saturday night or maybe even Sunday morning.

Instead of that analysis (which shall come when we have the results) I want to write an open letter to all of the politicians who will take up seats in the upcoming Parliament.

Continue reading

How Scotland Votes: A Guide to the 2021 Scottish Election

Disclosure and Disclaimer: Although I am politically active and an active member of the Scottish Green Party, this post is intended to be objective and politically neutral. This is a guide on how to vote, not a blog trying to convince you to vote for or against any particular person or party.

Introduction

On May 6th, Scotland will once again go to the polls to elect a new Parliament. This will be the sixth election since the re-establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 and the second election since I started writing this blog and these “How to Vote” guides. You can read my previous guides to elections in the UK behind these links which cover the 2016 Scottish Parliamentary Elections, the 2017 UK General Elections, the 2017 Scottish Local Authority Elections, the 2019 EU Parliamentary Elections, and the 2019 UK General Elections.

This will also be the second Scottish Parliamentary election that will include voters who were born after the re-establishment of Parliament and possibly the first to include election candidates who were born after the start of the devolution era.

It is also the first Scottish Election to involve voters from Scotland’s newly expanded electoral franchise. Whilst 16 year olds were enabled to vote in elections follow the 2014 independence referendum, the Scottish Electoral Franchise Act returned voting rights to EU/EEA citizens who had them stripped from them as part of Brexit but also extended voting rights to non-EU citizens. Anyone in Scotland who is aged 16 or over on May 6th and has right to permanently reside in Scotland. Limited voting rights have also been extended to prisoners who can vote if they are serving a sentence of less than one year (though the recent presumption against prison sentences of less than one year means that this affects very few prisoners – perhaps only around 500 individuals). As a result, Scotland has the second most expansive electoral franchise in the UK (Wales also allows all permanent residents aged 16+ to vote but has extended prisoner voting to those serving less than four years) and, prisoner voting aside, one of the most expansive franchises of all European democracies.

The result of this is that this election will include the voice of tens of thousands of people who have, until now, been unable to vote in the country they pay their taxes and many call “home”. As noted in my disclaimer at the top of this article, I am a politically active person but this blog isn’t about any of that. I want to walk first-time voters through the voting system for this election. Whomever you actually vote for, this is how to do it.

Continue reading

Working Towards A Different Future

“I live in my own little world. But its ok, they know me here.” – Lauren Myracle

There have been a few articles popping up lately extolling the virtues and the potentials of converting part of your home into an office. Take this article in the Financial Times from January as an example. A year since the start of the first UK Lockdown and many of us who have transitioned to home working are starting to adapt to this being a long term move or are at least getting a bit sick of taking up so much space in the living room or at the dining table. Many are starting to look at ways to modify their homes to make working from home more comfortable.

image_2021-01-10_095630

I know because I’m currently in the process of doing precisely this. I’m particularly looking forward to my fiancée and I not tripping over each other while we’re both working (particularly when one of us is in a video meeting or giving a virtual public talk) and I’m looking forward to creating a line again between our working space and our living space.

But I must check my privilege when discussing this kind of thing. As a home owner with a job that can be worked from home, I am in the very fortunate position of being able to think about and do this kind of thing. Not everyone is.

Continue reading

Pit-Stop Politics

“Remember that political parties are tools, and don’t let yourselves turn into party tools.”
― Ted Mallory, Prophet, Priest, & Pirate

A year ago today, Common Weal published “Within Our Grasp” – a policy paper describing an escalating pressure campaign designed to compel the UK Government to either sanction a Section 30 order for a second independence referendum or to compel them to accept the results of an unsanctioned referendum or other pathway to a democratic mandate for independence.

Continue reading

Towards a Nuclear-Free World

“I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds” – The Bhagavad Gita – quoted by Robert Oppenheimer as he witnessed the first nuclear explosion.

On the 24th of October, 2020 Honduras became the 50th state to ratify the United Nations’ Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and therefore 90 days later, on the 22nd January 2021, the Treaty shall come into force. Nuclear weapons shall become illegal. Contrary to previous Treaties like the Non-Proliferation Treaty it does not contain provision for signatories who are currently nuclear-armed to continue to maintain those arms beyond a time-limited transition and disarming period.

This is potentially as momentous a day as the day these weapons were first detonated in the 1940s and this treaty will have a significant impact on Scotland especially as independence looms and Scotland will have to deal with its own contribution to the proliferation of these soon-to-be-illegal weapons. However, as with all things international law, the effectiveness of this Treaty will ultimately come down to the willingness and ability for the world to enforce it – something that may be hard to do until and unless nuclear states are compelled to sign up to it themselves.

Continue reading

Last GERSmas

With apologies to Wham!

Last GERSmas, I gave you my stats
But the very next day you debunked them away
This year, to save you from Fear
I’ll give you my Transfers Fiscal
 
Last GERSmas, I gave you my stats
But the very next day you debunked them away
This year, to save you from Fear
I’ll give you my Transfers Fiscal
 
Tax devolved and tax reserved
I rule at distance
But you’re still in my eye
Tell me, Scotland
Do you recognise me?
Well, I’ll send my Peers
You should submit before me.
(Merry GERSmas!)
I stitched you up and sent you
A little note saying, “I love you, ” I meant it
Now, I know what a fool I’ve been
But if you Section 30
You’ll never fool me again.
 
Last GERSmas, I gave you my stats
But the very next day you debunked them away
This year, to save you from Fear
I’ll give you my Transfers Fiscal.
 
Last GERSmas, I gave you my stats
But the very next day you debunked them away
This year, to save you from Fear
I’ll give you my Transfers Fiscal.
 
An empty room, friends with straining graphs
I’m hiding from you and your mocking laughs
My God, I thought you were someone to rely on
Me? I guess it was the midges that I ran from.

 

My flag on another swells my Imperial heart
But yours out from cover just tears us all apart.
Ooh-hoo
Now you’ve won the polls, I’ll never fool you again.

 
Last GERSmas, I gave you my stats
But the very next day you debunked them away
This year, to save you from Fear
I’ll give you my Transfers Fiscal.
 
Last GERSmas, I gave you my stats
But the very next day you debunked them away
This year, to save you from Fear
I’ll give you my Transfers Fiscal…
 

Previous GERSmas Eve Carols here.
2017
2018
2019

See you tomorrow for analysis of the report itself!

The Road To Independence Part Two – Johnson’s Journey to Yes

“The wizards, once they understood the urgency of a problem and then had lunch, and argued about the pudding, could actually work quite fast. Their method of finding a solution, as far as the Patrician could see, was by way of creative hubbub.  If the question was, ‘What is the best spell for turning a book of poetry into a frog?’, then the one thing they would not do was look in any book with a title like Major Amphibian Spells in a Literary Environment: A Comparison.” – Terry Pratchett, The Last Hero

Introduction

In Part One of this series, I laid out the reasonable options that Scotland could pursue in order to demonstrate the democratic will for independence. There have been some murmurings of a potential “Plan B” to supersede the “Plan A” of a sanctioned referendum by Section 30 order so as to circumvent the current barrier of Boris Johnson simply saying “No” everything time we ask for one.

In that article, I referenced Pete Wishart who has expressed his objection to any “Plans B” and has since written his own blog post outlining some of the same challenges as I have identified – albeit without also challenging the limitations of the “Plan A” approach. I strongly encourage folk to read his article in conjunction with my own efforts and to start discussions in earnest about which option you prefer AND how you’d like to see the challenges addressed.

To greatly summarise my own Part One, I found that all of the reasonable options bar the “Plan A” of a sanctioned referendum cannot be blocked simply by dictat from Westminster BUT in addition to individual challenges unique to each of those Plans, they all suffered the common problem of not having an automatic mechanism of bringing the UK Government to the table to accept the results and begin to negotiate independence. On the other hand, “Plan A” – which DOES have that mechanism via something like the Edinburgh Agreement – suffers from the problem that Westminster can ensure that the vote itself doesn’t take place. The effect is the same in all cases. Until Scotland can put pressure on the UK Government to accept the Plan and the results, we are not going to become an independent country.

In this article, I’m going to draw again from Common Weal’s strategy paper Within Our Grasp to look at various ways that Scotland could ramp up the pressure on the UK Government until they agree to recognise our independence.

businessvarious

Continue reading

The Road to Independence Part One – A Democratic Event

“There is always a choice…Or, perhaps, an alternative. You see, I believe in freedom, Mr Lipwig. Not many people do, although they will of course protest otherwise. And no practical definition of freedom would be complete without the freedom to take the consequences. Indeed, it is the freedom upon which all others are based.” – Havelock Vetinari, Going Postal.

You would have thought that Lockdown would have opened up more time for me to look after my blog but instead Common Weal dove headlong into its busiest session of policy-making we’ve ever seen. Between pushing for more effective Covid strategy, analysing the impact of the pandemic on the Scottish economy and launching our post-Covid reconstruction plan I’ve been writing everywhere BUT here.

But most of that has now been completed and I’m currently on holiday which means that instead of writing about politics for work I now get a little time to write about politics for FUN!

Over the next few blog posts I intend to lay out what I see as the main strategic block on the development of the Scottish Independence campaign. Namely, a focus on developing “mandates” for another Scottish independence referendum rather than working out how to actually get one, where to go if one doesn’t happen and what to do after one happens.

This kind of thinking is long overdue but in the absence of it coming from the Scottish Government I’d like to offer my own thoughts and analysis to and for the sake of the independence movement.

190504 Sky Blue Saltires

Substantial parts of this series will be drawn from Common Weal’s strategy for gaining independence Within Our Grasp which you can read here.

Continue reading