It’s a people thing

James Kelly does excellent work when he’s wearing his psephologist’s hat. When he swaps it for a political analyst’s headgear, however, things start to deteriorate. There is something quaintly naive about a worldview in which British political parties regard polls as “food for thought” and “liberal commentators down south” have consciences for the pricking.

Here in the real world, if a British politician is shown polling results indicating that large numbers of people in Scotland think the UK is not democratic their first thought is to wonder why they are being shown this. If they have a second thought it won’t be about fixing the broken democracy. It’ll be about manipulating perceptions of democracy.

But why would they even have that second thought? Scotland is in the rather odd position of being both essential and irrelevant. It is essential to what Kelly refers to as the UK’s “self-image”. Or what I prefer to call the British political elite’s conceit of itself. That self-image – or conceit – is complex. But elements of it are hinted at by notions such as Westminster being the ‘Mother of Parliaments’. What is often remarked upon as snobbery is, in fact, the self-assurance of exceptionalism. The notional country of ‘Great Britain’ is held to be the source and exemplar of democratic governance. It is definitively democratic. So much so that it doesn’t actually have to act democratically in order to be democratic.

There’s also all that hang-over stuff from the age of empire which has ‘Great Britain’ strutting the world like a retired British Army colonel complete with swagger-stick and ill-fitting uniform barking orders at taxi drivers and observing incessantly that “It wasn’t like this in MY day!”. Except that they still think it’s MY day. And possessing Scotland is vital to this self-delusion. Scotland is absolutely crucial to that “self-image”. Without Scotland, the notional country of ‘Great Britain’ collapses under the weight of its own ridiculousness. The delusion evaporates. The conceit is punctured. The self-image becomes, to coin a term, ‘unsustainable’.

This is why Kelly gets it so horribly wrong when he says,

“If the facts on the ground are in conflict with that self-image, a tension will arise that could eventually bring about political change and an end to the wall of intransigence.”

Which is his way of saying that is people in Scotland complain enough about the democratic deficit then the British political elite will respond by rectifying, to some extent, that deficit. But the democratic deficit doesn’t stem from the British Tory party, as he seems to imagine. The democratic deficit is a function of the Union. It is ‘hard-wired’ into the British political system. Which is why however essential Scotland is to the ‘Great British Conceit’ it is also irrelevant.

British political leaders don’t care about public opinion in Scotland because they don’t have to. They don’t have to because the Union ensures that Scotland is always subsidiary to England-as-Britain. (Or Borissia, as I really enjoy calling it.) As essential as Scotland might be, that fact can never be reflected in our nation’s status and power because the Union is there to ensure that it can never be reflected in any concrete way.

James Kelly is immersed in the same folly that has all but submerged our First Minister. The foolish idea that the democratic deficit enshrined in the Union can be fixed by getting the British political elite to change. The fallacious notion that what Scotland is depends entirely on what ‘Great Britain’ does and NOT on what Scotland does. The ludicrous belief that Scotland’s independence can be restored by somehow using the democratic leverage that the Union denies us to force the British to yield to the leverage that we don’t have and give us the leverage which we can’t have because of the Union which the British can never put at risk by giving Scotland the leverage which the Union was designed to deny to Scotland in order that Borissia might exist.

This isn’t a numerical conundrum or a mechanical problem. It is entirely a political issue. A deep political issue. Politics isn’t bound by mathematical rules. Politics doesn’t operate on the basis of mechanistic cause and effect. That’s because politics is a people thing. You can know all there is to know about numbers and everything it’s possible to know about engines, but if you don’t get people you don’t get politics.



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16 thoughts on “It’s a people thing

  1. Thank you for another interesting piece. I have a suspicion that things have now changed so much recently that political processes will now be dominated not by what politicians do or decide, but by events. We’ll see.

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    1. @Duncan Spence

      You make your own luck – even in politics. Inaction is as much a political choice as action.

      YES/SNP have stagnated ever since NS delivered her letter in 2017. From that moment they stopped creating their own bow wave…and as in sailing once you are not cutting through the sea, you are at the mercy of the waves.

      SNP/YES are now at the mercy of events because they have made the fatal flaw of letting others set the running. History has repeatedly shown you what the British Empire does in those circumstances…and it’s brutal.

      STOP THINKING SCOTLAND IS IMMUNE.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I replied to you as a new comment. Apologies. It should be here:

        Like the resignation just announced of the government finance secretary for allegations about texts to a sixteen year old boy? An event I am willing to bet my last quid on is as coincidental as Mr Salmond’s difficulties.

        Events such as this may or may not be orchestrated by nefarious agencies. But they will come to dominate and the SNP government will now be forced to play catch-up.

        I am afraid terminal illness demands that I can do no more these days than rant on the internet. But if I were a younger man and healthy I would be very busy indeed. Orchestrating events.

        If politics is dominated by events, then those who control events have the power.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. As I keep saying, it is not so much the YES movement that is not going forward, but the politicians we had hoped to lead it.
        SNP has not done anything at all as far as Independence is concerned.
        It has been my view for a while now, we definitely need a new political Party of Independence.
        As it looks like we cannot rely on SNP these days for that.
        The YES movement has been let down, and badly.

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      3. I’m not so sure we need a new party at all. Rather I think we should just let the SNP get on with being the only one muddling the waters as we together make stuff happen. Create events as imaginatively as we are able to ridicule subvert and resist, educate agitate organise, as they used to say. Once a political party gets into the system here, it gets swallowed up and the system just plods along. Radical changes does not come from within the system and political parties are the most crucial element of that system.

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  2. Like the resignation just announced of the government finance secretary for allegations about texts to a sixteen year old boy? An event I am willing to bet my last quid on is as coincidental as Mr Salmond’s difficulties.

    Events such as this may or may not be orchestrated by nefarious agencies. But they will come to dominate and the SNP government will now be forced to play catch-up.

    I am afraid terminal illness demands that I can do no more these days than rant on the internet. But if I were a younger man and healthy I would be very busy indeed. Orchestrating events.

    If politics is dominated by events, then those who control events have the power.

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    1. …”Those who control events have the power”…
      You nailed it…and SNP have stopped controlling indy events.

      If it was negative events that decide the future of an Idea…then Boris /TM/ and every other scandal for the last 3 years would have brought Brexit to an end. On the contary, Boris is now PM and the Tories have actually purged all the moderates from their party.

      YES is concerned with achieving INDY. If YES have gotten to the point to where the very idea of INDY is now determined by the failure of any one minister or event then sadly you have lost – as those event will always occur weather they be orchestrated, real, or just timed for maximum impact.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The British state will only agree to something when it is in their own interests.

    Keeping Scotland’s land, Oil, Whisky, water and coastline, are a number one priority for the UK outside of the EU.England is an overpopulated country devoid of any natural resources or genuine home grown industry. All that truly exists in England is London. It’s the finance capital of the EU. However that is coming to an end due to barriers with trade and people.

    All that will be left for the UK is to strip Scotland bare. Believe me they are going to accelerate this. Scotland is going to end up like Eire just after they gained independence in the 1920’s. A land stripped of everything except it’s people.

    If we don’t want to start our newly independent country at that base level. Then we need to get out as soon as possible.

    We will never get out at the SNP’s glacial pace. In fact we might never get out at all if the SNP don’t use the mandate. The time for talking shops and waiting for diplomacy from England is long gone. We are in the war now. It will start on paper and in the media. It will end with a complete physical takeover of our country.

    The SNP will be held responsible if they allow this to happen. We in the movement cannot make technical decisions on sovereignty. We can protest, shout , march and campaign. But we are not the government so cannot implement change.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Tactics and strategy are always going to be dictated by the numbers on your side. Nobody ever willingly fought a pitched battle 50 against 5000. Wallace didn’t, he used guerrilla tactics. He fought on his terms not his opponents. You don’t fight a battle you don’t think you can win, where your chances are less than 50:50. What your chances are dictates your strategy. To have guts is admirable but to be foolhardy is shameful. There are no prizes for dead heroes. A dead hero is a useless warrior. So the first thing we have to do and are doing is activism. Consciousness raising. We have to get the word out. We have to make people aware and angry about the way Scotland is being treated. About the risks we face if we don’t. The price of apathy. This is a numbers game but it is also a feelings game. Support is not just measured in numbers but also in the intensity of feeling and motivation amongst the numbers. So I am not disagreeing with James. He has not expressed a strategy, but a general principle about consciousness raising being the necessary groundwork we have to do before tactics are discussed.

    Plus nobody who has any kind of strategy beyond consciousness raising is going to be daft enough announce it on a public forum like this or in a newspaper.

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    1. Major problem I see is absolutely NO strategy being applied. Also this ‘secret’ plan idea is rubbish and best if folk back away from assuming there is one.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The movement needs leadership. The Scottish government cannot deliver independence. The pro independence movement can.
    Operating as a devolved government under extreme restraints will never deliver independence. We need all prominent Independence supporters to come together to formulate a coherent plan. We do it and utilize the Scottish government to follow. Let us lead them.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. But don’t we need elected politicians to get us to Independence?
      How else are to make it happen without them?
      Mass ppl movements will simply not sway the UK Establishment.
      Westminster is not going to bother with someone who leads a movement, unless they are in elected Office., and have real power, too.
      That is why I say we need a new political group. Those who will do what we had hoped SNP. would have done by now.
      Scotland can’t wait around any longer.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Nothing will be done. Fat arsed men or women frothing from the sidelines will not help. Use yer fucking influence. Moanin bastard of an individual.

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