Tuesday 15 August 2023

The SNP has chosen Pinocchio to lead its rebuttal unit


Humza Yousaf has announced that quite soon there will be a new round the clock rebuttal service run by the SNP’s digital team. So, if at three in the morning a Scottish nationalist happens to read an argument suggesting that independence might be a problem, he can immediately find a counterargument with which to go to his Pro UK neighbour in order to win the argument they had the previous evening.

Yousaf said, “it would give independence activists the information they needed “to turn No voters to Yes voters”.” But the problem with such a rebuttal unit is immediately obvious.

Let’s say a Scottish nationalist comes across an argument that if there were to be a second referendum the question would not be Yes/No like it was in 2014, but rather Leave/Remain or some other variant. Well, the rebuttal unit already has the answer because it was set up to turn No voters into Yes voters. The likelihood of the rebuttal unit telling the Scottish nationalist that we don’t know the format of a future referendum question, must be approximately zero. But that is the truth. We don’t know the future.

The reason for this is that if the rebuttal unit told the truth that a future referendum might have a Leave/Remain question, it would be less likely to turn a Pro UK person into an independence supporter, because we know from polling that independence does worse on a Leave/Remain question than a Yes/No question.

So, it is immediately apparent that we are not dealing with truth here, but rather with propaganda. There is nothing wrong with this. Political parties obviously have a political bias. It is perfectly reasonable for the SNP to try to persuade people with argument and counterargument. Indeed, I wish independence supporters did this more often rather than shout, swear and intimidate. But this means that the SNP’s rebuttal unit is nothing new. It will do what the SNP has always done. It will make arguments for independence and provide counterarguments or evasions against those made by opponents.

Yousaf is trying to put some sort of objective gloss on his rebuttal unit as if it were the BBC or the group of scientists who told us what to do during the pandemic. But even though the BBC has a legal duty to be impartial on certain issues it clearly is not impartial. Even though the scientists were described as “The Science” that only Covidiots doubted, it is far from clear that lockdown was the best response to the pandemic, it is far from clear that mask wearing was useful and it is far from clear that Covid came to us because the Chinese like to eat pangolins rather than it leaking from a lab.

The result is that we cannot automatically trust BBC Verify even though it ought to be impartial. We cannot trust “The Science” because just like the BBC scientists are human beings. There is a selection bias in joining the BBC and in working as a scientist at a university. A BBC employee knows that certain viewpoints will prevent him being promoted and a scientist knows that certain viewpoints will stop him being published and receiving research funds.

This does not mean everything the BBC says is false or that we should doubt all scientific research. It means that it necessary to continue to think for yourself and recognise that there is bias in even the most apparently objective sources of knowledge and especially when the issue is controversial.

But this shows the full absurdity of the SNP’s rebuttal unit. It is pretending to be objective while its purpose is to convert people to the cause of independence. So, let’s say the rebuttal unit is asked how long it would take Scotland to join the EU after independence? Well, the SNP told us in 2014 that there would be no gap at all. In the transition period of leaving the UK Scotland would seamlessly join the EU. But we now find out that Scotland could not begin the process of joining the EU until it had completely left the UK.

After Brexit the SNP told us it would be easy to join the EU and the gap would be minimal. But we now discover that the SNP has known for years from its own advisors that it might take eight years to join the EU.

So, what does the rebuttal unit tell the anxious independence supporter at three in the morning. If it tells him that it might take eight years, he won’t be able to convert any doubters. So instead, does it tell him that the SNP’s own advisors were talking rubbish and in fact they were obviously Pro UK infiltrators telling lies.

Well look at the SNP’s own response to the story of it taking eight years to join the EU. It’s old advice, things have changed, nothing to see here.

But this is the whole problem in Scotland. We don’t have any shared facts. The Scottish Government each year produces figures about the Scottish economy and then immediately rubbishes them and tells us they say nothing about what the economy of an independent Scotland would be like.

But this is like me checking the Foreign Office Advisory site to see if a country is safe to visit only to be told to ignore the advice because it doesn’t tell me anything about what my future holiday would be like.

Not only can’t we trust the Scottish Government to provide the advice that it is given or the figures it produces, we also cannot trust the SNP to tell us the truth about its finances or anything else. On the central events of the past decade and more we are all clueless.

Nicola Sturgeon used to be best friends with Alex Salmond at least until 2014. Why did they fall out? Was it because Salmond advised that it was a bad idea for Sturgeon to be party leader and her husband Peter Murrell to be chief executive? But subsequent events suggest that this was good advice.

Was it because Sturgeon didn’t like how Salmond allegedly behaved while First Minister? But Salmond was acquitted.

You wouldn’t cease to be friends with someone accused of murder who was acquitted? Not unless you knew that he was really guilty, because you saw him pull the trigger. But in that case why didn’t you tell the police what he had done when you saw him do it?

Did Sturgeon fall out with Salmond because he complained about the Scottish Government’s treatment of him. But Salmond won a large compensation payment, which suggests he was right to complain.

Does she object to Salmond speaking at the Inquiry? But Sturgeon’s evasions and inability to remember suggest not only that Salmond was right to seek the truth but also that the Inquiry did not find it because it was a stacked deck with an independence supporting majority.

But if an independence supporting majority prevents us reaching truth, how can a rebuttal unit made up exclusively of independence supporters help us to reach the truth?

I still have no real idea why Sturgeon fell out with Salmond, nor why she resigned this year and everything that has followed has been equally baffling. There is no bedrock, nothing firm on which to stand. In Scotland there is no truth. Worse than there being no shared truth, there is no shared trust either.

So, what will the SNP’s rebuttal unit tell me about Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon, Peter Murrell and the evasions and secrets of the past decades? It will tell me nothing whatsoever if it damages the case for independence. The SNP’s rebuttal unit will metaphorically lie, cheat, steal and kill if it gets just one more person to vote SNP. If you don’t realise this, you have learned nothing about the SNP.

But if we can’t trust the SNP’s rebuttal unit to tell the truth, how is going to persuade anyone who has not already been persuaded? So, what is its purpose Mr Yousaf? You might as well ask Pinocchio lead the SNP’s rebuttal unit.