Wednesday 31 January 2024

Sturgeon's whole life is a lie, including the tears

Nicola Sturgeon won widespread popular support in Scotland due to her handling of the Covid pandemic. It could have been the catalyst that led to Scottish independence. But what it really revealed was not merely the flaws in her performance as First minister, but also the flaws in the whole devolution settlement.

When devolution was set up no one envisaged a peacetime crisis on the scale of the Covid pandemic. In previous pandemics it had been necessary to basically carry on as normal. It was impossible to work from home during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1919 so you had to go to work no matter the risk. The same was the case during flu pandemics in the 1950s and 1960s.

Without the Internet we would have had to have gone to work in 2020 too, but because much more work could be done now from home it was decided to lock us up. No one could have guessed that this would happen when Scotland voted for devolution.

The problem was that healthcare was devolved and unless the British government decided to treat the pandemic as a UK national emergency it was inevitable that the Scottish government would be in charge in Scotland.

But the problem was that Nicola Sturgeon had power without responsibility. It was as if the Second World War was declared but Scotland had the power to decide where the Spitfires were situated, and Scotland could make a separate peace with Germany if it thought fit to do so.  

The only way that Scots could be kept at home locked up and the only way that Sturgeon could enforce her policies was because the British government was paying furlough to those workers who could not work from home and keeping Scottish businesses afloat.

The British government like every other government made poor decisions, but it had to at least take into account the financial situation. The Scottish government on the other hand could keep Scottish workers locked down for as long as their wages were paid by the British government without even thinking of the economic implications. This is clearly untenable.

The solution to the pandemic eventually came through vaccination and from the fact that enough people gradually built-up immunity. You can argue one way or another about  whether lockdown was worth it, or alternatively whether we would have saved lives by acting as we had in 1918. The latter is almost certainly the case.

But despite the praise that Sturgeon obtained the important decisions with regard to entering lockdown and developing vaccines and how to support a population that was not working, were not made by her or her government.

She could appear on TV and use the knowledge that was shared with her by the British government in order to appear that she was in charge, when really, she wasn’t. This was the first instance of her dishonesty.

Sturgeon’s rule during the pandemic was largely superficial. Few if any lives were saved by her decisions about entering or leaving lockdown or whether a Scot could wear a mask while drinking in a bar or not. Her micromanaging did not save lives, but Scots frequently believed that it did out of fear or because they found themselves tempted by her Scottish nationalism. If only we didn’t have a border with those dreadful, dirty English we’d be saved from the plague. It was a medieval attitude.

No one thought that a devolved government would have such power, worse no one realised that a devolved government would have such power but would have to rely on such a lack of expertise. The British government was advised by genuine experts in their field, the Scottish government was advised by a dentist, a gynecologist and an American who wasn’t even a doctor.

Sturgeon’s Gold Command did not need Kate Forbes to attend because it didn’t matter how the Scottish economy was doing, it was being paid directly from the Treasury by Rishi Sunak. But not only did it lack financial expertise it lacked all other expertise and didn’t make use of the epidemiological expertise that was available in Scotland.

Both the British and the Scottish governments can be criticised for their handling of the pandemic. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. In the whole western world only, Sweden got it right. The only lesson is that lockdown was worse than the disease.

But the fundamental difference between the British government and the Scottish government is that Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock and Dominic Cummings were held to account. None of them are involved in government today. We have a pretty good idea about the decisions taken by the British government, and we have access to members of that government making fools of themselves and using crude language, but we only have glimpses into the inner workings of Nicola Sturgeon’s government.

Sturgeon ran a government, as I suspect she had almost from the beginning in 2014 of insiders and everyone else. You might be the Health Minister as Humza Yousaf was at the time, but the decisions were not made by you, they were made by Sturgeon’s inner circle. You might be the Finance Minister as Kate Forbes was, but she was a Potemkin village Finance Minister, the real Finance Minister was in the inner circle. It was Sturgeon or else it was Murrell.

Secrecy is at the heart of Sturgeon’s method of ruling. We still have no idea what really went on at the heart of Scottish government when it started investigating Alex Salmond. We know still less about what happened during the pandemic.

Sturgeon and her friends and family whether they were officially SNP MSPs or civil servants, or her husband ran Scotland as if it were a family business. There was no need to tell anyone else.

The significance of Sturgeon deleting all her WhatsApp messages is not that act in itself but that it signified her long-term contempt for accountability. Other people may have deleted messages, but nowhere do we know so little about the real decision making.

Having access to Sturgeon’s day to day thoughts is like having access to the manuscript of a novel with all its corrections and additions. But Sturgeon burned the manuscript like she burned the phone.

A lesson must be learned about devolution. There cannot be such power without responsibility. There cannot be such control over millions of lives without those lives knowing in full the reasoning behind the decisions.

Sturgeon is a pitiful figure. She was once so angry and so aggressive in 2016 about Brexit and now has descended to crying in public about what she has been reduced to. But it is not primarily about Sturgeon it is about finding a way to rule our country in a credible manner.

If there were another crisis, we need to be ready to face it not with a cobbled together group of amateurs pretending they have real expertise and not with a secret society pretending to run a country when it depends for all its money on someone else.

There is a pattern of behaviour here. Nicola Sturgeon ran her life and job like an absolute monarch who ruled by diktat without responsibility and without accountability and with a degree of secrecy that is untenable in a modern democracy. Let her be punished if any crime can be proved to have been committed. But much more importantly realise that this pattern of behaviour was a function of devolution. There is power but in the end, there is no responsibility and no accountability. No matter how badly you rule you still get bailed out.

Rebuild how we share power in the UK or be faced with similar excesses. This is no way to run a democracy.

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Monday 29 January 2024

A fairytale that has nothing to do with Scotland. Part 22

Part 21

Once upon a time there was a man called Tobit who would later become King Paul, just as Albert later became George VI and David became Edward VIII. There was also a woman called Sarah, who would later become Queen Nancy, just as some other Queen who I can’t at the moment remember changed her name when she became Queen.

Now Sarah lived in a town famous for one thing. Whenever a man got married there the bride died and because it was in the land of Nod East of Eden it was called East Kill Bride. But Sarah’s problem was different to the problem of all the other brides. Perhaps it was because Sarah secretly identified with Samuel, or perhaps it was because she really preferred girls to boys, but every time she got married her husband died on the wedding night.

Well Tobit was making his way towards East Kill Bride and unfortunately one night when he fell asleep a seagull decided to leave white stuff in each of his eyes and he woke up blind. But fortunately, he meets the great painter Raphael who told him if they can only catch a particular sort of fish, not a salmon, but rather to be precise an Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus then not only would his blindness be cured by its gall, but the burnt heart and liver would drive out the demon that was killing all of Sarah’s husbands.

The blindness was really a blessing to Tobit for otherwise he would have been so horrified by the sight of Sarah whether possessed by demons or not that he would have run away with or without his guide Raphael.

Well, the burnt heart and liver drove away Sarah’s demon and East Kill Bride neither killed its first bride nor its first husband and soon after Sarah became Queen Nancy and Tobit became King Paul.

But having cured his blindness with the gall of Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus Tobit discovered to his horror that he has married Queen Nancy and immediately began to identify as Paula because really, he would much prefer to sleep with the fishes than sleep with Nancy.

But was Paul really Paula or was it rather that by imagining himself as Paula, he could imagine himself sleeping with men. And with Nancy horrifying Paul did she comfort herself by identifying herself as Butch Cassidy in order to imagine herself sleeping with Butch’s wife. Raindrops keep falling on Nancy’s head| as she dreams about a bicycle ride for two with Daisy.

This was all rather problematic in terms of a successor for which reason Paul and Nancy eventually turn to a contest between Regan, Cordelia and Gonorrhoea.

Nancy chose as her successor Gonorrhoea which is perhaps the better explanation for the demise of all her previous bridegrooms than her being possessed by a demon. She claps as Gonorrhoea wins the role of Nancy’s protector.

“You have one job and one job only” she told him “keep the Head Loo from digging in my garden”

But unfortunately, Gonorrhoea must have been blinded by a seagull too leaving white droppings in his eyes as he became

Eyeless in Gaza at the Mill with slaves,
Himself in bonds under Philistian yoke;

And the Philistine had a cunning device that she was able to twist around Gonorrhoea’s tentacles and whenever she twisted that little bit more he yelped and gave another 750,000 ducats to the philistines lest he be left with a kingdom but only broken eggs.

So, the Head Loo discovered what my old man said to follow and messages that Nancy had bought every day were discovered to have been thrown away uneaten as a sort of bedtime ritual.

They found out Nancy had a recipe for marzipan and dill do what she might to hide it and that it was she that was using it with sauce à la française and so it came to pass that a year after abdication she began to feel a bit like Butch Cassidy just before the end when he was confronted with all those Mexican soldiers. Do I sell out Sundance?

There is an innermost circle of hell reserved for those who betray anyone, let alone the man who saved her from all those dead bridegrooms and drove out her demons, but with the Head Loo all around there was no choice but to buy a house in West Kill Husband.

Apparently, the people in West Kill Husband who sold the house thought the buyer was coming from London, but this was due to mixing up the speed bonnie boat who had met up with his childhood sweetheart and was speeding himself into her and hopefully into the House of Lords to remain in her, with Nancy who never penetrated any deep thought and was also never penetrated deeply either.

So, the house in West Kill Husband was purchased, whether with Nancy’s own ducats or with the ducats reserved for the kingdom's future battle for independence in a war that didn’t occur, is as yet unclear.

Former King Paul visited the House in West Kill Husband. Surely it would be his home too with the wife he had saved and gathered all those ducats.

He went into the bedroom and saw Nancy’s head turn around one hundred and eighty degrees and then turn the full three hundred and sixty, green vomit spewed from her mouth and as his eyes turned into those of a demon, he flung himself from the window.

“There is the man who threw away all the messages uneaten” Nancy told the Head Loo “after I went to such great trouble to get the pan loaf he liked and his favourite marzipan”

“There is the man who told me to follow my old man and he is solely responsible for the cock linnet that got Gonorrhoea and the broken eggs”.

And so, Nancy settled down to retirement, free but bitter”

I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender! I coulda been head of the United Nations, President of the EU, Prime Minister of New Zealand, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let's face it. It was you, Paulie.

Part 23

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Sunday 28 January 2024

Why are independence supporters voting Labour?


I generally don’t much trust political opinion polling. But it is all we have between elections, so we are forced to pay attention. But that doesn’t mean we have an excuse to stop thinking.

There were two polls on Scottish independence each with the usual question, the same as in 2014, that would not be asked if there were a second referendum.

In one Yes had a four-point lead. In the other No had a one-point lead.

But there must be a distinction between polling about a theoretical referendum that everybody knows is unlikely to happen anytime soon and polling for an actual General Election that everybody knows must happen in the next twelve months.

There is a mismatch.

Labour is on 36% in Scotland.
The SNP is on 33%.

Labour is predicted to win 28 seats, while the SNP would lose 30 seats and win only 18. The Conservatives would then retain their 6 seats and the Lib Dems would win 5.

Now let’s say that it is true that support for Scottish independence is really on 49% and its true that support for the SNP is on 33%. Well, that would mean either that 16% of Scottish nationalists are stupid or that they don’t really want independence.

How is Scotland to achieve independence? There is only route. It is not by saying Yes in an opinion poll. It is by voting for the SNP or another party that puts in its manifesto that it wants Scottish independence.

It may not be sufficient for the SNP to win large numbers of seats in Scotland. We have seen it do so on a number of occasions since 2014. The British government has to agree to a referendum. But it is clearly necessary for the SNP to demonstrate something near majority support in order to have a chance of persuading the British government to grant a referendum.

If the SNP wins only 18 seats, then independence can be ruled out for decades if not forever.

So, if you say Yes in the poll and you believe that you want Scottish independence what are you doing voting Labour? It may be that there are some independence supporters in Scottish Labour, but a Labour government will probably depend for its majority on Scottish MPs. To grant a referendum on the basis of opinion polling for Yes, while only 33% of Scots vote for the SNP would be for Labour to risk losing its majority. Why would Keir Starmer agree to that?

It is also possible that the SNP could persuade a British government to grant a second referendum by holding the balance of power at Westminster or by winning an absolute majority at Holyrood as Alex Salmond did in 2011. But again, the likelihood of the SNP holding the balance of power becomes highly unlikely if it goes from 48 seats to 18. A Labour government would be able to form a coalition with the Lib Dems rather than turn to the SNP. Likewise, the chances of the SNP winning an absolute majority in Holyrood becomes highly unlikely if it can only win 33% at a General Election two years earlier.

So, we have to ask these independence supporters, all 16% of them, how do they want to achieve their goal? It’s as if their goal is to drive to Inverness from Glasgow, but instead they go in the direction of Carlisle.

Supporting independence for some Scots has become almost a cultural thing. It’s part of their identity. But they don’t actually really want it. People who really want independence like the Baltic States during the fall of the Soviet Union don’t worry about issues like currency or borders or joining the EU, they just declare themselves to be independent, set up their new state and work things out as they go along.

But Scotland isn’t remotely in that situation. If you offered Scots, the Lithuanian model of becoming independent we would reject it overwhelmingly. Scots only want independence if everything stays the same as it is now and we get all that we want in the negotiations both with the former UK and the EU and also, we get free iPads and £10,000 so we can be like Denmark.

There may be 33% who will vote for the SNP come what may, but that is close to the core 25% of Scots who supported independence in 2011. What the SNP has gained since 2014 is soft support that theoretically wants independence, but actually doesn’t if it means losing the pound or the Barnett Formula or having to deal with a hard border between Gretna and Berwick.

These soft independence supporters were willing to go along with the SNP as it felt a bit like cheering on Scotland at the football, but as soon as the SNP began to look a bit dishonest last year and still more so this past week, we discover the nature of their softness.  It’s rather like Sturgeon’s crude analogy.  They were made of marzipan.

There is no real history of Scottish nationalism until the 1980s, with Margaret Thatcher and the poll tax and closing Ravenscraig and those awful Tories being wicked to Scotland. It therefore is not really an independence movement it is an anti-Tory movement. Thatcher has become like Cromwell to the Irish. An almost mythical figure to scare the weans at bedtime.

The SNP is an anti-Tory party rather than an independence party, but this means that it is now hoist by its own petard. The bomb [petard] is blowing up in Humza Yousaf’s face.

When the SNP won nearly all of the Scottish seats in 2015 the consequence was a Conservative government and people wondered how on earth could Labour ever win a majority again without its Scottish MPs. In this situation if you were anti-Tory, it made sense to vote for the SNP and independence as this was the only way to escape a Tory government. But this logic now works against the SNP. In order to escape a Tory government, you don’t need to go to the trouble and risk of Scottish independence. You just need to give Labour its Scottish seats back.

The reason people who theoretically want Scottish independence are voting Labour then is that this funnily enough gets them what they always wanted. A Labour government. This leaves the SNP with no argument.

It is self-evident that the one thing that might deprive Labour of a majority is if the SNP wins all the seats in Scotland. It will matter little if the Conservatives retain their six seats. So, the anti-Tory contest becomes a battle between Labour and the SNP in the Central Belt. With more revelations to come this week and perhaps this year, guess who loses that battle. The SNP’s anti-Tory strategy now works against it.

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Saturday 27 January 2024

Can Humza Yousaf become Miss Scotland?

The story of the Japanese beauty contest won by someone born in Ukraine who moved to Japan as a child is on the one hand trivial, but on the other important as a means of thinking about concepts like nationality and what it is to be a country. Some Japanese people apparently have objected to a white European becoming Miss Japan as their concept of what it is to be Japanese is based on ethnicity.

This modern Miss Japan is a Japanese citizen. She speaks Japanese exactly like every other Japanese person. Why should she not therefore be Miss Japan? It should not matter at all that she was born in Ukraine to Ukrainian parents?

In Britain since the 1950s we have developed the idea that being British is not about where you were born or where your parents come from. Rikki Sunak is English, Humza Yousaf is Scottish. They are both British citizens no more and no less than anyone else.

When the United Kingdom was a country where nearly every British citizen was white it was undoubtedly the case that people thought their Britishness or indeed their Scottishness was a matter of their family having inhabited this island as far back as they could trace. But to continue with this way of thinking when millions of British citizens are descended from people born elsewhere would be to have two classes of people. One would be ethnically British, the other would only be a British citizen. This would be divisive and untenable.

Japan remains as homogeneous as the UK was prior to the 1950s. If sufficient people arrive in Japan from elsewhere, they too will find that an ethnic concept of being Japanese becomes untenable and divisive.

But however, much we may deplore the concept of nationality as ethnicity it is more widespread than Japan.

My husband was born in the Soviet Union in a place that until 1939 had been in Poland. His family always considered themselves to be Poles and spoke Polish at home although it was forbidden. Eventually with the fall of the Soviet Union he was able to obtain Polish citizenship based on his family being Polish. He was ethnically a Pole even if he was a Soviet citizen.

It was just this concept of being Polish which enabled the Polish people to retain a common identity even when Poland ceased to exist between 1795 and 1918. Without it they would have forgotten their language, customs and religion and would have disappeared.

The Polish nationalism that kept them rebelling often hopelessly while ruled by others and which forged Poland from the collapse of three empires was based on the Polish people having a common identity, ancestry and ethnicity.

Japan was able to absorb aspects of American culture after the Second World War and become thoroughly modern, but unlike Western Europe the demographics of Japan have remained essentially the same. If twenty or thirty percent of the Japanese population had instead come from elsewhere in the world then the concept of what it is to be Japanese would have changed radically. There might be Japanese cities where the majority did not speak Japanese. The nature of Japanese society and its culture would have changed beyond recognition. It is precisely because they do not wish this to happen that the Japanese retain a concept of themselves that excludes someone whose parents are Ukrainian.

We are hopelessly muddled about ethnicity. We retain the concept of people being native Americans, indigenous people descended from the inhabitants of the continent prior to the arrival of Europeans. But we reject the concept of native Europeans. If you look at a list of ethnic groups you will find Romanians and Poles, but other European peoples are missing.

We have a concept of colonisation that criticises British people for colonising somewhere like Bangladesh, but how many white Christians from Britain live in Bangladesh today? Incomparably more people of Bangladeshi origin live in Britain than ever went to what is now Bangladesh during the British empire.

In Britain we have been left with no alternative but to ditch the concept of ethnicity, but people still segregate themselves according to their ancestry and being a British citizen gradually becomes no more than a flag of convenience.

It is necessary to ditch the concept of ethnicity in a country where people are from everywhere, but in the end, we ditch the concept of country too. There comes a point when there are British citizens from every country in the world where we simply have no justification morally for preventing more from coming here.

If large numbers of Indians are already British, what grounds do we have for discriminating against these Indians who also want to be British, but have the misfortune not to be able to obtain a visa and instead have to arrive by dinghy? We have no grounds. To do so would be racist.  

If your family could come to Britain Mr Sunak, why can’t mine? Was it just you that you came at the right time, or had some other good fortune? Why indeed? To refuse the request looks awfully like using a ladder then kicking it away for the next poor person who wants to climb upwards.

This is to erase the concept of a border and also to erase the concept of citizenship. There can be no such thing as the British people if they are from everywhere. There can be nothing that unites them. There can be no reason for them to fight for their country let alone die for it anymore than if they were the crew of a tanker registered in a place none of them had visited.

This is the direction that western Europe is travelling in. If you continue the levels of migration that we have had in the past decades then the concept of France, or Belgium or Germany will become meaningless. Europe too will disappear into Asia and our present society will disappear just as the society that built Stone Henge and Scara Bray disappeared with the arrival of the Celts.

There is probably no stopping this. But if you are in your thirties and give birth to a child, that child will probably see the disappearance of all that you take for granted.

This makes the arguments in Scotland about Scottish nationalism and independence peculiarly missing the point. We are moving towards the end of the nation state, in which case going to inordinate lengths to distinguish yourself from England which ceased to be a country in 1707 is obtuse even bizarre.

If someone of Ukrainian origin can become Miss Japan it may well be a sign of progress, just as it is a sign of progress here that Rishi Sunak can become Prime minister and Humza Yousaf First Minister, but it makes Scottish nationalism and the goal of the SNP completely pointless. In a world where everyone can be Scottish just by arriving here, then the concept of a Scottish people that is in any way distinct from people living anywhere else becomes redundant. It won’t last longer than your baby’s lifetime it may not last longer than the box the Scottish government gave you to make itself different from England.

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Thursday 25 January 2024

The SNP has a cult of conformity


After the latest revelations from the Covid inquiry in Scotland it is hard to believe that support for the SNP won’t fall further. There is a real prospect of Labour replacing the SNP as the main party in Scotland both in Westminster and in the Scottish Parliament. That’s a lot. Even a year ago that would have been unimaginable. But it’s not enough.

Scottish society has in the past two decades been largely captured by the SNP. It needs to be freed. But if it is to be freed it cannot immediately be recaptured by Labour. What we need is genuinely independent thought. Not independent from England, but independent from party political control and influence.

There is a conformity in Scottish life that goes back to before the SNP became dominant. It unthinkingly holds the same assumptions about Margaret Thatcher, the 1980s, public spending, tax, healthcare and England. It may not support independence, but it is soft nationalist, mildly Anglophobic (the Auld enemy chuckle, chuckle) and hasn’t had a new thought about Scotland since Donald Dewar and devolution. It is this that captured us.

The Scottish civil service ought to be full of people with all political views or none. Instead, it identified itself completely with the SNP. It is this above all that allowed Nicola Sturgeon to carry on as if she were an absolute monarch. The rules did not apply to her.  It is this that meant that the culture of secrecy at the heart of the SNP was not exposed.

But it’s not just the civil service. It’s also the fact that the police was centralised under the SNP and became too close to its political masters. Both the police and the judiciary must be completely independent of government. The First Minister should not have any more acquaintance with important members of the judiciary or police than any other Scot. There should be no phone calls to a friend asking him to sort this or that.

The same goes for all other aspects of public life from higher education, charities, the health service, the BBC and the media in general.

Scotland is a small country, but its not that small. The lawyer representing the families who lost loved ones due to Covid just happens to be a friend of Humza Yousaf. There are enough lawyers in Scotland. Choose one who Humza Yousaf has never met. There is no need to be worried about impartiality. But do it anyway just to be on the safe side.

The capturing nature of Scottish society can best be seen by how many who move here from abroad feel the need to conform. Someone from France, or Canada or the USA would have grown up knowing absolutely nothing about the SNP, or Scottish independence. Yet suddenly upon arriving in Scotland they turn rapidly into Scottish nationalists. Why?

If a Scot moved to Poland, he wouldn’t get much involved in Polish politics. He would not campaign for independence for Kashubia nor for Silesia to be returned to Germany. But here we find an American academic who has gone completely native in her love for Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP. There we find a Canadian who thinks the problems of climate change would be solved if only Scotland were independent, and we returned our bottles.

These people quickly realised that if you wanted to get anywhere in Scotland you had to conform to Scottish nationalism. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t get this post, or that promotion.

Scottish nationalists are completely open and confident in expressing their views, because they know that it can only help them in society and cannot hinder them, but in much of Scotland people who oppose the SNP or indeed who disagree with leftwing politics in general learn to keep silent. If you don’t you will lose friends and your work might disapprove.

If you arrive in Scotland and campaign for the SNP, you will be loved even if you are English and called a new Scot, if you oppose the SNP, you will be a white settler or told to go home. That is why people conform. The easiest way to fit in was to agree about how wonderful Nicola Sturgeon was.

The Scottish media conformed when Labour and the Lib Dems were in power. There was hardly a voice that questioned devolution or its nationalistic assumptions. But it became vastly worse during the referendum and after.

The Scottish media failed collectively in its job of holding the Scottish government to account. Whichever government is in power in Westminster there will be journalists willing to expose and criticise and make arguments against it. There will be no holding back.

In Scotland there are independence supporting journalists who can write what they please. But even those apparently Pro UK journalists have to modify their criticism of the SNP lest they get into trouble with their readers or the Scottish government. When things go well for the SNP, they tell us that independence is inevitable, when things go badly like now, they revert to supporting Labour. But always they share the same nationalist assumptions that underpin both devolution and the argument for independence.

The BBC did a fairly good job of being impartial during the referendum, but it was genuinely scared by the intimidation from Scottish nationalists or being exiled to America, and we now have the absurdity of Scottish TV programmes that no one watches that the BBC has to keep paying millions to pump out because otherwise would upset the SNP. It’s not impartiality. The assumptions are soft nationalism, woke and soft left. There are no alternative viewpoints.

With few exceptions the Scottish professional media has disgraced itself during the past decade, but the disgrace is really the same disgrace as the civil servants who were paid to be impartial but instead became Sturgeon acolytes. The disgrace is almost universal in the Scottish public sector, which chose to conform to the SNP. It’s a form of corruption.

You may call it low level corruption, because people don’t usually take bribes, but corruption in sectors where funding depends on public money is universal in Scotland. High level positions depended on not disagreeing with the SNP.

This is how the SNP had such power. All it took was a phone call and someone who did not conform was either made to conform or else had to keep silent or leave.

We are fortunate. There were just about enough of us to keep making the argument, just about enough of us who did not conform. But if we are lucky enough to defeat the SNP let’s create a truly free society where every political and moral viewpoint can be expressed and where our goal in public life is to be genuinely impartial and independent in our thinking from influence and control.

Scotland began to resemble the Soviet Union where you couldn’t get ahead in any field unless you supported the Party. The Scottish government was as secretive as the politburo, and we had a cult of personality that made me wonder if soon we would have a giant picture of Nicola Sturgeon in George Square and Alex Salmond would be purged from old photographs.

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Monday 22 January 2024

Scots no longer trust the SNP

Every few years we have a choice between having a Conservative government or a Labour government. It’s a big thing and a lot of time and energy is devoted to the campaign. But it’s not that big a thing. It won’t matter that much. Five years on things will be much the same.

It is for this reason that voters will probably give Labour a chance. The Conservatives haven’t done all that well so why not give the other party a go. Why not indeed? Labour might well make a mess, but we’ve all experienced Labour governments before. When Labour does badly, we give the Conservatives another chance. That’s how our democracy works. It’s not that big a risk. It’s not that big a deal, because you get another go a few years later.

With the SNP the risk is rather bigger. I only have to trust Keir Starmer a little bit to make him Prime Minister for five years. If he mucks it up, I can change my mind later. But the SNP’s aim only policy is to leave the UK, which would at the same time turn the UK into the former UK, like the former Yugoslavia.

There have been endless arguments for and against Scotland leaving the UK. But what they really amount to is do you believe this leader can after destroying a 300-year-old country called the UK bring us Scotland to prosperity without damaging our lifestyle and standard of living in the process. It’s fundamentally a question of trust.

Alex Salmond failed the trust issue, partly because he couldn’t answer some of the fundamental questions, but more importantly because voters didn’t trust that he would have the answers even if he didn’t have them now.

A leader of an independence movement doesn’t have to know all the details about future currency arrangements or how a country would relate to the EU, but voters have to believe that he can be trusted to guide them to the destination of independence without disaster.

This is especially the case with the UK which is an advanced economy with a high standard of living. If you live in Sudan, it’s not much of a risk to leave and become South Sudan, because it wasn’t that great in Sudan. But if you are France, it might seem a greater risk to become an independent Brittany or if you are Germany, you might wonder what would happen if you tried to become an independent Bavaria. Well, the same argument applies to the UK. The risk factor is that what you have is by world standards pretty good. You might get something better with independence, but you might also get something worse.

Salmond does not come across to me as a trustworthy man. He comes across as a chancer. He’s all bluster and make it up as you go along. He comes across as car salesman and be careful you don’t get caught with him in the back seat. I think this is why Yes lost the referendum in 2014.

Nicola Sturgeon by contrast was almost wholly trusted by huge numbers of Scots from 2020 to 2022. It was folly that the UK government didn’t treat the pandemic as a national emergency and allowed the devolved parliaments to run things. It gave Sturgeon exactly the platform she wanted to build the case for independence.

She didn’t need to talk about the deficit, or GERS or currency or anything else. Arguments about these matters are of limited use, firstly because voters quickly get bored and anyway can’t tell the difference between debt and deficit, secondly because they are negative about Scotland, which Scots hate. All Sturgeon needed to do was say “trust me”. Everything will be fine.

So, every day with her excellent presentations skills she was able to say “trust me” look how much better I’m running things than the English. If you give me the chance, I’ll run an independent Scotland better than the English too.

By the end of the pandemic Sturgeon was winning the trust argument. The only thing that was preventing her winning a referendum was the UK government saying No and the Supreme Court reminding the Scottish parliament that constitutional matters were reserved.

I would not have relished a second independence referendum in 2021 or 2022. Even the nominally Pro UK commentators were telling us at every opportunity that independence was inevitable and how fortunate we were to have Nicola Sturgeon looking after our welfare.

But now just a little later support for the SNP is falling. The prospect of another independence referendum has gone. Labour may win more than half the seats in Scotland and the SNP may be about to return to where it was prior to the Scottish parliament. A handful of others.

Whereas in 2020 and 2021 even many Pro UK people began to trust Nicola Sturgeon, now lots of independence supporters no longer trust her.

Most people don’t follow politics that closely, but you don’t have follow closely to have ceased to trust Sturgeon. She suddenly resigns. She can’t properly explain why. There are all sorts of scandals and ridiculous purchases including a campervan. There is an arrest, though no charges have followed. There is a tent outside her house.

Is it any surprise that voters began to wonder if she was as trustworthy as she seemed. Now we discover details about the secret way in which she ran her government. Messages were deleted. Things that were said publicly which were expressed totally differently privately. We were told they were concerned only about the pandemic not politics while behind the scenes they were plotting how to use Covid to get independence.

Looking back Scots began to realise that we didn’t know much about Sturgeon. Why did she fall out with Alex Salmond? Was there some sort of attempt to fit him up? You don’t have to follow this stuff too closely to begin to wonder about whether Sturgeon is trustworthy.

But if Sturgeon might not be wholly trustworthy then maybe the SNP isn’t wholly trustworthy either. Look how it asked supporters for money for an independence campaign. There was no campaign, but there is also no money. What happened to it?

Now we have Sturgeon’s successor Humza Yousaf. Even if I thought he was honest I would not think that he was capable of bringing Scotland to independence without disaster. But anyway, Scots are not merely questioning Humza Yousaf’s competence we are questioning his motivation. He is more interested in foreign affairs than fixing matters in Scotland.  He keeps making preposterous statements like if only we vote for independence, we’ll all be £10,000 richer and that what matters in the next election is for the SNP to defeat the six rural Conservative MPs rather than the army of Labour candidates waiting to defeat it in the Central Belt.

No one believes Yousaf and if you don’t believe him you can hardly trust him.

Trust in the SNP needs to be way higher than trust in any other party, because at the SNP is offering radical change to almost everything we know and therefore voting for the SNP involves a degree of uncertainty that is quite different from voting Labour, Conservative or Lib Dem.

Nicola Sturgeon convinced a large majority of Scots to trust her over Covid, but it was all presentation without substance, because it was all grounded in secrets and lies. So much so that it is hard to reach any sort of bedrock with her character. Is there even any truth to be found there?

If Sturgeon had been honest and open since becoming leader of the SNP and First Minister, then it is quite possible that right now she would have been close to her goal. If the support, she gained in the pandemic had been turned into votes at a General Election then she might have been unstoppable.

But in every tragedy, there is a tragic flaw and Sturgeon’s flaw is to be two faced. She is secretive while pretending to be open, she is deceitful while pretending to never to tell a lie, she is insincere while pretending be trustworthy.  

But it’s not just Sturgeon who was two faced. It is the SNP that went along with her. Trust in the SNP has collapsed, because those Scots who believed in Sturgeon during the pandemic have realised that they were fools to do so.

It matters little now what happens next to Sturgeon in terms of politics. It may matter more to her personally. Whatever fresh revelations or legal consequences follow from her secrecy won’t matter much more now. The damage to the SNP and the cause of Scottish independence has already been done. The wound is deep and infected with the puss of duplicity. Such wounds are mortal.


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Friday 19 January 2024

This is the worst scandal in Scottish political history


For a few months during the pandemic Nicola Sturgeon had what she had always dreamed of. She had independence. It’s true that the money still came from London. The vaccines were developed in London. The British Army put up the Nightingale hospitals. Still in every other respect she had something close to absolute power.

In no previous time in Scottish history had a king or a queen been able to regulate quite as precisely what Scots were able to do and what we were forbidden to do.  You can’t go to school. You can’t go to work. You can go outside only for this long. You mustn’t go more than these few miles. You may not visit this relative. You may not have sex with this man or this woman. Compared to this even under an absolute Scottish monarch of the Middle Ages we had more freedom.

It mattered little what the British government did, Sturgeon could decide how long we had to stay at home and what else we had to do or not do purely because she wanted it so.

It was an awesome level of power perhaps unsurpassed by that of any Scot in all of our long history. It was the power over life and death itself. Sturgeon’s decisions about care homes, whether to keep schools open or closed, whether to try to obtain zero Covid in Scotland and how long to keep people locked up in their homes had life and death consequences.

Someone’s granny didn’t make it because Sturgeon ordered elderly people to be sent to a care home without being tested. A school child’s education was ruined by the decision to close the schools. Someone’s business was bankrupted by her rules about hospitality. Someone killed himself because he lost all he loved and all his money.

So, what is history going to tell us about this period in Scotland? Nothing. The records were all deleted.

There are periods in Scottish history of which we know very little. The only records we have of the time when the Romans invaded Caledonia come from the Romans. We know hardly anything about the Picts other than what we can discover from archaeology. There are gaps in our knowledge even about well-known figures from Medieval times like William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. But there are at least some sources. They weren’t all deleted.

A few hundred years later and we have good records about the life of Mary Queen of Scots. We know about the good that she did, and we know about the bad, because people wrote about these things and what they wrote was not destroyed. If it had been destroyed, we would know nothing of the familiar tale of Darnley, Rizzio, Loch Leven, Elizabeth the First and execution.

There are Scottish absolute monarchs who have left behind more historical evidence than Nicola Sturgeon.

She is a tabula rasa. We know certain events of her public life, but when you dig deeper there is a blank, there is an emptiness, there is nothing.

The SNP and the Scottish government since 2014 were run exclusively by Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell and we know nothing about what went on behind the scenes. All is omerta. I think even most SNP politicians are completely clueless about the inner workings of their own party and government.

So then during the pandemic all we have is Sturgeon’s public statements, her TV broadcasts, but we know nothing whatsoever about what happened behind the curtain when Shakespeare so to speak said exeunt, we know nothing about the motivations behind her decisions, we know nothing about whether parties were held in Bute House or whether any other rules were broken.

The Scottish civil service although nominally British has gone native or been forced to and has become wholly identified with the SNP. It will leak nothing and reveal nothing. It will not complain about WhatsApp messages being deleted or records not kept. This is not Downing Street. This is Scotland.

We know more about the innerworkings of any number of Scottish kings than we do about the Scottish government, because people dared to write about it and people dared to keep what they wrote.

This is a much bigger scandal than it first seems. It’s not just that Sturgeon has failed in her duty to history. Future Scots deserve to know what happened during the pandemic of 2020 and the years after.

More importantly Sturgeon as our absolute monarch in 2020 has failed in her duty to those of us living now. She had absolute power over our lives but did not deign to leave a record of her reasoning for the life and death decisions that she took.

There is a pattern here. Not only do we know nothing about the innerworkings of the SNP from 2014 until Sturgeon’s resignation. Not only do we know nothing about the motivations and the private thinking of the First Minister during this period. We know nothing at all about why she resigned. None of the explanations she has given are sufficient. Likewise, we know essentially nothing about the scandals and arrests that followed her resignation.

But there comes a point when history views a blank slate and sees a concerted attempt to destroy the historical record as itself evidence.  What is Nicola Sturgeon hiding?

It is not accidental that we know more about the innerworkings of the court of Mary Queen of Scots than we do about the life of Nicola Sturgeon. It started I think as a habit that she would say nothing, reveal nothing and leave no record behind. It then became a method that was accepted by Scottish nationalists. Wheesht for indy. If we are secretive and hide everything it will help us get over the line. Finally, it became like in a Greek play something similar to ὕβρις [Hubris].

Sturgeon during the pandemic began to see herself as an absolute monarch. She began to see herself as untouchable. Her ambition like Icarus began to soar and she thought she could get away with anything. Her wings were indestructible.

She flew too close to the sun, or else she failed to realise that she lacked the intellect to continue indefinitely the game she was playing and that one day she would be found out.

I don’t know. I have thought a lot about Scottish politics, but Nicola Sturgeon is a mystery to me.

“There goes a true-bred Sturgeon,” said Montrose, as the envoy departed, “for they are ever fair and false.”

Like Walter Scott’s Campbell this is Sturgeon’s epitaph. Fair and false.

Her reputation has been destroyed. The suspicion that she deleted the messages because she was hiding some wrongdoing will be left to the judgement of history and history won’t know, which leaves Sturgeon in the position of Mary Queen of Scots in relation to the murder of Lord Darnley. What did Mary know? Was she involved with the plot? Did Mary have anything to hide?

If it’s a Greek play what follows Sturgeon’s hubris is Νέμεσις [Nemesis]. She reminds me of Lady MacBeth a lady with more ambition than talent and a husband she thought she could control. But MacBeth kept buying campervans and then Jaguars and then he bought a pale horse. And guess what followed with it.

If she is very lucky indeed history will judge Nicola Sturgeon badly. If she is unlucky the present will judge her.

Let us be clear. This is the worst scandal in modern Scottish political history. SNP voters should hang their heads in shame that they brought us to this.

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If he's not a nationalist, is he a fake?


There is a curious phenomenon in Scotland of people pretending to be something that they are not and pretending not to be something that they are. We have had this before from Nicola Sturgeon wishing that that the SNP did not include the N word and we have had it again from Humza Yousaf. He has

Never really been comfortable with the fact we have national in our party’s name. Not because the founding members of the SNP had any far-right inclination, they certainly didn’t, or any nationalist inclination the way you expressed there but because it can be misinterpreted.

So, what would happen if we removed “National” from the name. Well, we would get “The Scottish Party”, but if anything, that would be even more nationalistic than “The Scottish National Party” as it would imply a still further identification of Party and Scotland that is already a tendency with the SNP and  still more so with Alba.

But the mistake of both Yousaf and Sturgeon is a failure to understand that the word “Nationalist” precisely describes what they are. The Oxford English dictionary defines Nationalist as

An adherent or advocate of nationalism (nationalism n. 1a); an advocate of national independence or self-determination. With capital initial: a member of a particular nationalist political party (see sense B.1).

There are other definitions of nationalist, but any reasonable understanding of the word means that it certainly applies to the SNP. That is if it is still pursuing national independence for Scotland. If it is not, then it might care to be honest and open about this.

But the root of Scottish nationalism in a pretence that is peculiar to the United Kingdom. If you look at European history, you will find typically that sometime in the Middle Ages various kingdoms were either conquered or formed unions with other kingdoms. These involved acts of union.

Sometimes this was because a king married a queen, sometimes because someone won a war. This process continued right up to 1860s and 1870s with the unification of Italy and Germany. Arguably it is continuing now with the beginnings of federalism in the EU.

But no one in Europe thinks that their country is made up of countries even though the parts of France and Germany have at least as good a claim on being countries as England and Scotland.

This is where our whole language is problematic.

1 We talk of north of the border, when there is no border.

2 We talk of the Auld enemy, when our fellow citizens are not enemies, and we last fought against England in 1547.

3 We talk of four nations, when there is only one.

4 We talk as if the union of 1707 still exists, when in fact the kingdoms of Scotland and England merged to form the kingdom of Great Britain.

5 We talk of countries where everyone else in Europe accepts the equivalents of Scotland and England are no longer countries.

6 We think that it matters that Scotland has its own laws, when every state in the USA also has its own laws.

7 We base our argument for independence on the anomaly that Scotland plays international football because the game was invented in the UK.

8 People claim that the UK is not a country, because it has the word United in it, which would mean the Unite States was not a country either.

It’s all pretence and self-deception, but it is ludicrously carried on by both sides of the argument.

Theresa May thought she was helping by calling herself a unionist, not realising that it concedes the argument to the SNP. If the UK is a union like the EU as Scottish nationalists think, then it must be a sort of confederation made up of sovereign nations. But in that case Scotland would already be independent.

The UK government talks of a four-nation approach, or the UK being a union of equals, which again concedes the argument. If the UK is really made up of four sovereign nation states, then each clearly has the right to depart not merely after a referendum, but whenever it wants.

You cannot have a nation state made up of nation states and to pretend that you can is a delusion. You have to accept either that the UK is not a nation state in which case what on earth is this historical entity that has been acting as a nation state for the past centuries (running an empire, fighting in world wars etc), or you have to accept that the parts of the UK are not nation states, in which case it would be better to call them something else for the sake of clarity.

But we mustn’t upset the Scots, let’s go along with their pretence that they are still a nation it will stop them actually becoming one. This is the pretence at the heart of UK government, but it is also the pretence at the heart of Scottish politics.

If you ask Scottish voters if they want independence around half will say that they do.  They say this for a variety of reasons. One is that they support Scotland at international football and feel patriotic when they wear rather atypical clothing when meeting other football fans from abroad. The second reason is that they hate Tories and rather associate being Tory with being English. The third reason is that they enjoy pretending not to like England and feeling the grievance of a small place in relation to a large neighbour.

Meanwhile they are happy to live in England and marry English people. So, it is a pretend enmity.

But none of these are serious reasons for seeking independence, not when we are fortunate enough to live in one of the more prosperous nation states in the world. It rapidly becomes like California seeking to leave the USA or Bavaria trying to leave Germany. It’s joke politics. But here we have to pretend that it’s serious.

So Scottish nationalists pretend that they want independence. They dress up in the same sort of clothes as the Tartan army, which no one wears in ordinary life and go on marches and then they vote No when they have a referendum and then they vote Labour rather than the SNP.

Now you can respond to this as has been suggested by giving Scotland even more powers otherwise these Scottish nationalists will go back to voting for the SNP. But all you are doing in that case is emphasising the pretence.

It was only on the basis that Scotland was a nation state within a nation state that it was concluded that it was unjust that Scotland voted Labour and got a Tory government and so needed a parliament of its own.

Naturally enough a nationalist argument from Labour and the Lib Dems began to fuel Scottish nationalism and led to power for the SNP.

The threat to the UK is more from devolution than from independence, because Scotland keeps getting ever more powers paid for in the main by English taxpayers while England has no devolved power at all. Eventually the English rebel against this and English nationalism which did not exist thirty years ago begins to grow.

It is more likely that England leaves the UK than Scotland, for which reason it will never be given a vote.

So, Humza Yousaf pretends that he is not a nationalist because he doesn’t understand, perhaps because he is so Scottish that he failed to properly learn English. Other Scottish nationalists pretend to support independence while their goal actually is to defeat Tories, in which case voting Labour is more rational than voting for the SNP. There is no need to appease them with more powers. They are as uninterested in the Scottish parliament as the rest of us. They are happy with the pretence of a parliament so long as it exists.

But all of this pretending unfortunately has serious consequences. Scotland has lost a decade thinking only about independence and we are falling behind in health and education standards.

Worse than that we have ended up with an authoritarian and corrupt SNP and with a UK government that was unwilling to have a national policy during the pandemic because of the folly of treating the other parts of the UK as nations. This led not merely to attempts to treat the border between England and Scotland as an international border that could be closed, it led to the absurdity of UK money paying Scots to stay at home while the SNP took the credit for things it did not do like develop vaccines.

It was bad enough having Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell running the SNP like a family business in which they had absolute power and patronage. But it is worse now.

If Humza Yousaf is not a nationalist, what is he? What motivates him and how did he reach the top? It’s not just a matter of cruelly playing with his name, the past year has shown that he is shockingly talentless as a politician. It’s one disaster after another as if he became leader only after making a pact like Faust and has ended up being cursed.

Like Sturgeon too it looks rather as if Humza Yousaf is running a family business and it means now that voting for the SNP turns out to involve Scotland more than it might like in Gaza, Turkey and the worst parts of Dundee.

Pretendy Scottish nationalists who only ever wanted independence if they thought life would go on just like it does in the UK but, they’d all get gold bars for voting SNP are as disgusted with Humza Yousaf as the rest of us. They are not going to get independence, nor gold bars, nor £10,000 and they don’t much like the SNP being associated with the dregs of society.

Expect support for the SNP to fall still further. It matters very little indeed what you call it. What matters is what it is.

If Humza Yousaf is not a nationalist it’s because he’s something worse. He's just pretending to be one. 

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