Saturday 17 October 2020

Defeating the defeatists


I have a certain respect for Scottish nationalists. They have a cause that they believe in and they fight hard for it. Nicola Sturgeon is an excellent communicator. Alex Salmond was a first-rate politician who brought his party from nowhere to the natural party of government in Scotland. The SNP took on and destroyed Scottish Labour in a way that was quite unimaginable to Scottish Labour.

If I had predicted when the Scottish Parliament was established that Labour would not merely fail to run it forever but would be reduced to one MP there would have been Labour chuckles and shakes of the head. What happened was quite simply impossible.

So, I admire SNP politicians for their skill. Politics is about winning, and they have won a lot. I disagree with them of course, but you can admire a skilful opponent. The only way to fight an opponent is to recognise his skill. Never underestimate the SNP. They are good at politics.

Likewise, I have a certain respect for those people who write articles that make the case for Scottish independence. Many have risen from obscurity and now have a great deal of influence. I can respect an opponent who is dedicated to his cause even if I profoundly disagree with that cause.

What I have zero respect for is those journalists and opinion formers who were on my side of the argument but who have gone over to the other side. Our argument isn't so different now than it was in 2014. In fact it is better. You changed, not the argument.

Worse still are those who while pretending to be Pro UK give aid and comfort to our opponent.

We fought a tough campaign leading up the referendum in 2014, but at least it was a fair fight. There were journalists on both sides of the debate. The media gave each side the chance to put forward its argument. There were complaints about BBC bias of course, but no one can claim that the SNP were not allowed to make their case. We heard their arguments. There were debates. There was a Scottish Government White Paper setting out their reasoning.

There were things that the Scottish electorate disagreed about in 2014. We disagreed about what would really happen if Scotland voted for independence. Some of us were optimistic others pessimistic, but the truth is no one knows for sure what will happen in the future. But at least each side had the chance to make its argument.

Since then it has become ever more one sided. When was the last time you heard someone on TV make arguments against Scottish independence? When were the fundamentals of the issue discussed seriously?  Not since 2014.

Everything the SNP says and does whether it is about Covid or anything else is designed very carefully to make the case for Scottish independence. Who is making the counter argument? No one is. Neither opposition politicians in Holyrood, nor journalists on TV or elsewhere ever really make the argument for UK unity. They never really take the SNP on fundamentally. The Scottish news channels are soft on the SNP. It’s shadow boxing at best.

There are any number of Westminster journalists dissecting both Labour and the Conservatives. Arguments for and against Brexit were made after the 2016 referendum. But nothing like that happens in Scotland. Imagine the feeding frenzy if Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings were caught up in a scandal similar to the one involving Sturgeon and Salmond. Imagine what would happen if they withheld information from an Inquiry.

There are a few Scottish journalists who put up a fight. Brian Monteith is one. Stephen Daisley is another. There are a few others. They are worth reading.

But what I cannot abide is the defeatism of people who used to argue against the SNP and now think it is time to give up.

Do you remember how No had a huge lead at the beginning of the referendum campaign? I think it was 25% at one point. Were the Scottish nationalists ever defeatist? No. Did they ever say that the cause of independence was doomed? Not once. If they were ever pessimistic, they kept it to themselves.

Morale is everything in a battle. If you think you will be defeated, you can be pretty sure your prediction will come true. This is why yet another “we are doomed” article is so damaging. It makes English people give up on Scotland. It makes them think what’s the point. Indeed, it encourages English people to say “good riddance” to Scotland. If they are going to leave anyway, we might as well make the best of it. It does still more damage in Scotland.

We have few enough genuinely pro UK Scottish journalists. We don’t really get to make our argument on TV. We are reduced to people like me who have jobs, but who write in our spare time as a hobby.

Not one single Scottish nationalist journalist, supporter or politician, thought independence was doomed when Yes was on 42% and No was on 58%. They didn’t think they were doomed when they had lost by more than 10%. No. They dusted themselves off and kept on fighting.

I dislike limpets. They leave a nasty gritty taste in the mouth. But I admire their tenacity. They stick to the job.

When faced with a set-back, the task is to fight harder and make better arguments. If our voices are not heard we need to shout louder, write better articles and find people who can communicate our arguments.

What we do not need is defeatists.

There is no prospect of a second independence referendum any time soon. The campaign hasn’t even begun yet some supposedly pro UK Scottish journalists are ready to surrender.

At least Lord Halifax had a good reason to suppose that we would be defeated in May 1940.  Our whole army was trapped on the other side of the Channel. At least he didn’t advocate surrender before the war had even started. This amounts to the position of Iain Martin and Alex Massie. How much did the SNP pay you to write this defeatism? If you had written it in 1940 you would have rightfully been interned along with the SNP. Shame on you. I will never read either of you again. 

This is a tough battle. We need every Brit who is willing to put the work in. It doesn’t matter what your contribution is. Even sharing good pro-UK arguments, telling your friends and neighbours is a massively helpful.

I would advise everyone to cease reading defeatists. They contribute no useful arguments but only damage your morale if you read them. Maybe if enough of us cease reading them we can put them out of business. 

Above all be optimistic. We have very good arguments and the task of achieving independence is becoming harder not easier.

We have a tough opponent. Do not underestimate the SNP. But keep fighting and I promise we will overcome them together.