It is possible to be a totally despicable individual and still make an entirely factual statement. There is an unfortunate tendency for people to let their feelings about an individual colour their appreciation of the content of what that individual says. Similarly, personal preferences and enthusiasms can all too often hinder objective assessment of a factual statement. The iron law of analytical thinking is that one must question everything having first questioned one’s own assumptions, preconceptions and prejudices. In order to objectively analyse a statement we must separate it from both the sender and the receiver. We must, as completely as we are able, abstract the content from the human aspects of the context in order that it may be assessed, to the greatest extent possible, solely in relation to known facts and rational arguments; remembering always that we are dealing with an abstraction which must ultimately be restored to a context where human emotions are a significant factor. If our analysis and the human context are not compatible then one or the other must change. It should not, in these circumstances, be assumed that it is the analysis which must adapt. It is entirely possible that it is the emotional response to that analysis which is at fault.
There’s an article in today’s Sunday National which includes statements by both Pete Wishart, SNP MP for Perth & North Perthshire and Anthony Salamone, managing director of Edinburgh-based political consultancy European Merchants. Wishart is, as we would expect, very much on-message.
We are at the point of securing independence – the First Minister set a timetable for a referendum this year, this is now eminently winnable and the only thing that we have got to do is get out there, secure that support and ensure it is won well.
Mr Suleman sees things rather differently.
You have 12 months, but I imagine you wouldn’t want to hold a referendum in December, maybe not November, so can you really do all that in nine months? I don’t necessarily think so.
So I do find that quite unrealistic, even if the UK Government says yes and they won’t, they won’t say yes initially. I think on that order the timescale is very challenging.
As a passionate advocate of the restoration of Scotland’s independence I would very much like to agree with Pete Wishart’s perspective. Taking my emotions out of the equation, however, I have to accept the truth of what Anthony Salamone says. Others who are at least as passionate about independence as myself may reflexively reject the downbeat analysis. But it would be wrong to do so.
The restoration of Scotland’s independence is often portrayed as a journey. Going along with that analogy it necessarily follows that to make this journey we need to know, not only where we are going to, but where we are starting from. Only then can we plot a course between accurately known departure point and precisely defined destination. To paraphrase the old joke, where we are is not where we should be if we want to get to independence. Plotting a course to independence from where we are is very far from the simple matter imagined by Pete Wishart.
Wishart claims that the First Minister has “set a timetable for a referendum this year”. Has she? I have yet to see such a timetable. Which does not, of course, mean that it does not or cannot exist. But given how eagerly I’ve been looking for such a timetable it seems at least unlikely that I would have missed it. I suppose it depends on what one means by ‘timetable’. What I mean by that term is a step-by-step account of the events which lead to a referendum some time in late – but not too late – 2020. I have not seen any such account. I know it starts with the granting of a Section 30 order. But that is not something that can be fixed in time, as a timetable would require. The clue is in the name. The granting of a Section 30 order is, we are told, critical. But, the request (or ‘demand’) having been submitted, an accommodating response could happen any time between start of business tomorrow and the day Katie Hopkins is appointed a UN Goodwill Ambassador.
If there is no fixed starting point there can be no timetable. At best, there may be a timescale. That is to say, a more or less detailed account of how long the journey will take once it is started. At the moment, the only fixed point we have is the endpoint – midnight on 31 December 2020.
Pete Wishart’s claim that there is a timetable for a referendum this year is false. Objectively false. False no matter how much he or anyone else wishes it were true. As false as the plainly idiotic claim the we are closer to independence now than on Thursday 18 September 2014. His further claim that a referendum is winnable is banal, because the same could be said of any referendum at any time. Referendums are winnable by definition. It is also worthless if the referendum to which he refers doesn’t happen. And the balance of probability suggests that it won’t.
Anthony Salamone explains why a 2020 referendum is unlikely. He uses a timescale of nine months because this is the lead time suggested/recommended by the Electoral Commission. What he does not mention is that this lead time starts with the passing by the Scottish Parliament of legislation specific to the referendum under discussion. (This is quite separate from the Referendums Bill just passed by Holyrood and awaiting Royal Assent.) That legislation cannot even begin its progress through Parliament until a Section 30 order is granted and agreement reached between the Scottish and UK Governments equivalent to the Edinburgh Agreement that Alex Salmond wrung from David Cameron all those years ago.
So, we are talking about nine months from a point in time which is totally subject to the whims of a malignant child-clown who is fervently opposed to there ever being another Scottish independence referendum. A malignant child-clown, moreover, who would relish nothing more than the opportunity to embarrass Nicola Sturgeon by ensuring that she cannot deliver on her ‘promise’ of a referendum in 2020. Pete Wishart doesn’t seem to see a problem in all this. Readers may draw their own conclusions.
I do not dislike Pete Wishart. I have no axe to grind here. I am not interested in attacking him or denigrating him. All I’m doing is pointing out that what he says is, at the absolute minimum, very misleading. If he doesn’t even know where we are, how can he possibly qualify as a guide on the journey to independence?
I don’t even know Anthony Salamone. To the best of my admittedly unreliable recall, I’ve never heard of him. I have no opinion of him and no feelings about him. I am distinctly unhappy with what he says. As a lifelong campaigner for independence, how could I take pleasure in his assessment of the situation. But I cannot fault his reasoning. What he says is right. It is correct. It is as factual as it can be when there are critical unknowns.
Some will insist that, for the sake of ‘unity’, I should stand with Pete Wishart. They demand that I disregard the reality and cheer him on as he tells people stuff that just isn’t true. Or I should just remain silent – for the sake of ‘unity’ – and let people believe whatever they want to believe regardless of the reality. Even leaving aside the matter of my own integrity – which I cannot do – how does this help the cause of restoring Scotland’s independence? How does it do anything but hinder that cause to have a false idea of its status? How can we begin to address the problems if we fail (or refuse) to properly identify them?
Ian Smart is someone I do know. Or, at least, someone I know of. I am well acquainted with his views and attitudes having subjected myself to his public expressions of them over a number of years. I don’t like Ian Smart. What I know of him bids me loathe and despise him. He represents everything I detest about British Nationalist ideology and the cancer I would so dearly like to excise from Scotland’s politics. I don’t habitually use the word ‘hate’. I hold it in reserve for the worst of the worst. It is only with the greatest restraint that I resist applying the term to Ian Smart. I abhor what he stands for.
And yet I have to agree with him. Not entirely. But substantially. There is little in the gruesome little toad’s latest blog which can be disputed. In what must be a first for this deeply unpleasant creature, it is almost entirely factual and accurate.
Where I most assuredly part company with the odious Ian Smart is in our respective attitudes to the reality that he sets out with unaccustomed honesty. He relishes the account of a British state that looms over Scotland like an Orwellian boot poised to stamp on our faces forever. He revels in the idea of Scotland’s subjection and humiliation. He gloats over the dire predicament into which Scotland has been driven. He regards with unabashed glee the prospect of dancing on the grave of Scotland’s aspirations. He drools as he contemplates the British ruling elite trampling every democratic principle into dust. He resembles nothing more than the cowardly wee gobshites that orbit bullies.
Smart’s attitude is the mark of a deeply flawed human being. I care less than nothing for that. Hell mend the obnoxious little turd. But he proves the point that it is possible to be a strong contender for the most despicable individual in Scotland and still make a statement that is, in all its essentials, correct. Trust me when I say that it turns my guts to write this.
The question is how do we retrieve the situation. Ian Smart supposes we can’t. But that’s him allowing his rabid British Nationalist prejudices take precedence over what passes for his intellect. He wants it to be true that the beautiful dream is over every bit as much as those who don’t share his contempt for Scotland want to believe Pete Wishart’s reassuring bedtime story.
I reject both Pete Wishart’s fairy-tale take on the situation and Smart’s crowing celebration of a Tory election victory that he supposes has killed independence stone dead. He’s not the first to imagine that. Nor, I wager, is it the first time he’s imagined it. I reject both Pete Wishart’s deluded claim that everything is awesome and Smart’s arrogant assertion that it’s all over; that it is time to move on; that it is time to abandon Scotland’s cause.
I am firmly persuaded that the situation can be recovered. I reckon that there is a route to independence from where we find ourselves now. But we can’t even begin to discuss that until the SNP and the Yes movement recognises the reality of Scotland’s situation. If I despair at all, it is not of seeing Scotland’s independence restored but of enough people casting off comforting illusion so as to make it happen.
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