Who’s panicking?

Angus Robertson is starting to irritate me. He really needs to learn that not every response to a political development is a sign of panic. In fact, it can be a serious mistake to assume that your opponent is panicking when they may well be doing no more than responding to developments – either in accordance with some form of contingency planning or calmly and methodically guided by knowledge and experience. It is unwise to ever assume that your opponent is less powerful and determined than they might be. And that may be particularly true when that opponent is the British establishment.

This is not to say that Michael Gove, or any of Boris Johnson’s clique, might be particularly politically astute. There is little evidence that the current British political elite is a marvellously efficient machine in which every cog is a political operator of some genius. Rather the contrary. But there is one bit of evidence that we would be foolish to ignore. They tend to win! Somehow, this clown troupe has managed to achieve almost everything it set out to achieve. And where it has failed – even in the most appalling and abysmal way – it has survived. A casual observer unaware of the detail and background might easily mistake the Boris Johnson regime for the smartest political operators since Machiavelli. Or, at least, since Alex Salmond.

My preference would be to play safe and assume that everything the British do is, if not planned, then at minimum carefully considered. I would not dismiss anything they do as mere panicked flailing. I would be looking for the purpose behind their every move. I would always assume that they know what they’re doing. Because even if Michael Gove does give the impression of a creature desperately trying to maintain human form, he (it?) is merely the amorphous face of a ruling elite which has centuries of accumulated knowledge and experience. He and Boris and all the rest are just the public tip of a massive iceberg. Even the most incompetent and idiotic general will win battles if he has an overwhelming force behind him. Angus Robertson would do well to bear this in mind.

But hang on a minute! Isn’t Angus Robertson himself reputed to be something of a smart political operator? Doesn’t the SNP have a record that suggests it too is something of a well-oiled political machine with decades of accumulated knowledge and experience which because of the circumstances in which it was gained, may be broadly equivalent to the British ruling elite’s centuries? Shouldn’t we assume that, however irritating, Angus Robertson knows whereof he speaks? Shouldn’t we assume that he is perfectly well aware of the need to avoid too lightly dismissing the actions of the British state? Shouldn’t we be asking ourselves, therefore, what might be the purpose behind his eagerness to portray the actions of the British state as a panicked response to the SNP’s success?

It was no surprise to find Angus Robertson trotting out this rote refrain of an affrighted Tory government on the verge of chaotic retreat. We might have passed it by with a yawn. But when John Swinney joins in that refrain – or adds verse to chorus – our attention is rightly seized. Because Mr Swinney is without doubt a very smart political cookie indeed. It pays to attend to what he says. It pays even better to find the meaning and purpose behind what he says. With your indulgence, I think it helpful to quote him in full.

This move and this talk is essentially an indication of an acceptance of the reality that we’re now facing. That support for Scottish independence is demonstrating itself at a strong, consistent Yes position and majority support for Yes which is now emerging in a number of polls.

So I think what we’re now seeing is the UK Government accepting there will have to be a referendum on independence, and that’s a welcome position for them to take and it’s a democratic position for them to take.”

We had a referendum in 2014 in which people took the view that this was a well-organised referendum, with the correct franchise in which the people who are eligible to vote here in Scotland were able to do so.

And I think that served us well, there was international commendation for the strength and the quality of the process we put in place in 2014. And I don’t think we should deviate from that because of the inconvenience for the UK Government of the fact that Yes support is now demonstrating such a strong position within Scotland.

Who is John Swinney talking to here? What is the underlying message and who is the message most meant for? Obviously, he is always talking to the people of Scotland. He is the Deputy First Minister. He is also a very senior figure in the SNP. So it is safe to assume he is talking to the party membership. But is he addressing a particular section of the electorate? Is his message intended for some group or groups within the party?

When I attend closely to what John Swinney says what I hear is him selling the SNP’s current approach to the constitutional issue. And selling it hard. I hear a message intended to convince his audience that this approach is working. That it is succeeding. He is giving affirmation to those who have faith in this approach. He is giving reassurance to those whose faith may be wavering. He is issuing a reprimand to those who voice concerns about the commitment to the Section 30 process and the whole mindset behind the SNP’s approach to the matter of restoring Scotland’s independence.

Do you hear what I hear? Notwithstanding John Swinney’s calm, authoritative manner, do you detect perhaps just a faint note of panic in the urgency with which he is trying to convince us that the SNP is winning a battle which, despite all the rhetoric about imminent victory, is very, very far from won?

While John Swinney talks about supposed indicators of panic among the Brits and the likelihood of them conceding defeat, the subtext speaks of a concern that it may be the position taken by the SNP which is under pressure. Which is interesting. And not at all irritating.



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13 thoughts on “Who’s panicking?

  1. The question of why certain people within the SNP are shouting about a Tory panic has been fascinating me for quite a few weeks .After some thought, i have come up with my own personal conclusion that the Tories are playing a game of reverse Psychology. With the Tories pretending to show signs of panicking, it inadvertently gives ammo to comfy Pete and his mates,which in turn allows them quite rightly point to the evidence that is being feed. With this evidence to hand comfy Pete and his mates can continue to keep indyref2 at bay whilst the UK establishment do there best to undermine the devolution settlement. The thing is there is still no evidence out there that points us in the direction that Nicola is reversing out of the section 30 cul-de-sac, so why would the Tories be panicking?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m sure I’m not alone in responding instinctively with scoffing scepticism to any suggestion of intelligent deviousness on the part of the British political elite. But as I point out in the article, this is a mistake. Whether they’re being fiendishly clever or not we must act as if they are.

      I do not accept, as you seem to suggest, that the SNP leadership is trying to “keep indyref2 at bay”. It’s more complicated than that. What is absolutely certain, however, is that the SNP’s current approach is very much the one British Nationalists would hope for if they couldn’t kill the independence movement “stone dead”.

      My take on it is that there is among the SNP leadership a mixture of profound reluctance to be seen to do a U-turn on Section 30 and paralysing fear of the kind of politics that’s actually required. A few may actually be convinced that what they’re doing is the right approach. Some may even believe the nonsense about the British respecting democracy. For more than a few, this conviction is highly convenient as it allows them to avoid going against the boss.

      And there’s probably one or two who know damn fine that the current approach is bound to fail but who choose to put their careers first.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. Sometimes I feel the on-line Indy commentariat are over thinking things.

    The SNP, FM and independence are all at unprecedented levels of support. Unsurprisingly, the arch unionist party is showing signs of “panic” in the face of these unwelcome (for them) facts. To the extent that an S30 order “may” be forthcoming as the democratic pressure builds. Taken at face value, of course Robertson is going to highlight it. The Indy movement would be nuts not to (though it isn’t ousting the “usual suspects” from their bunkers of denial). And of course Swinney is going to push the “plan is working” line. He wants the party of independence to be returned with a handsome majority next May (despite the best efforts of the afore mentioned “usual suspects”). None of this is rocket science.

    More often than not, to quote Douglas Adams, “if it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family Anatidae on our hands”.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. During my years of negotiating at various levels of society and business I always sought to put myself in my opponents shoes.
    What would I do if I were them and had their point of view? It sounds simple enough but requires an ability to hold two, or more, ideas in ones mind at the same time. To know what to hold onto and what to throw away to ones own benefit. If I could believe that the upper circle of the SNP were capable of this ability I would sleep a lot more soundly in my Independence bed.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. I am not at all sure they are panicking. I’d say more that they are plotting. Listen to Mike Russel on the UK Internal Market – interview Scotland@7 Friday.

    If that plot turns to dust as most of their endevours seem to do, I would be very careful and regard them as cornered rats.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Even if the Govt were in full blown panic mode, (shredding documents and abandoning ship style panic, NOT the PM goes camping in a Glen type “panic” which passes for a headline in August)

    I have no doubt the SNP Govt in Holyrood will step in and steady the ship.

    After all we wouldn’t want to win our Independence nefariously, and it would not be fair to take advantage of Britain’s demise.

    And sure Nicola and her team that steered us through the Covid will be a safe pair of hands until the UK gets back to its senses.

    The High Command wont charge until they have a section 30.
    They did not get record approval rating talking about Molotov cocktails and UDI .

    Like

  6. ‘Paralysing fear of the kind of politics that’s actually required’.

    That would be it.

    I doubt if there is much panic within the UK govt, whilst the SNP accepts that they are arbiter of our fate.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I think I would be happier if I thought the SNP were panicking about December when the power grab happens.

    Alas, they don’t seem particularly bothered about Indy ref 2, Brexit or the power grab.

    Is this proof that Nicola doesn’t want Indy ref 2 while she is leader?

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Your lucky he is only starting to irritate you now. He has been irritating me for the last 20 odd years after meeting him at a party.
    And the Guy has not one original idea in his head, it’s parrot, parrot let’s state the obvious…..yeah that will do.

    Liked by 1 person

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