Sunday 31 March 2024

Throwing away the ladder and other essays


I have concerns about Humza Yousaf’s hate crime legislation, but I don’t expect anything much to happen on April Fools Day or indeed in the months that follow.

I have been writing regularly for about twelve years and for the most part it has been trouble free. There has been the usual online name calling and one or two offline complaints.

I have been able to express whatever views I want about almost any topic. Freedom of expression has limits and I accept that. There are things that a sensible writer ought not to express. We all should sometimes check ourselves. Do I really need to respond to an insult with another insult? Could I perhaps be kinder in what I say? Perhaps I should moderate this or that opinion.

But within those necessary limits I remain determined to write with reason and passion and to argue for my views using logic and knowledge. What’s more I do not expect anyone to try to stop me. The reason for this is that Scotland will not suddenly change overnight from March 31st to April 1st. We are a free society now and we will continue to be a free society tomorrow and the months and years afterwards.

Scotland is a free society because that is what our history made us. We were not a free society in 1707 when we formed the Kingdom of Great Britain, nor I think did we become fully free until the twentieth century, but we are now. We expect to be able to read what we want, write what we want and say what we want. We expect the police to treat us fairly and for the courts to be honest and just. There is nothing Humza Yousaf’s SNP can do to change this expectation.

Of course, a free society can become an unfree society. But it will take a lot of arbitrary arrests, a lot of court cases and a lot of prison sentences for writing or saying the wrong thing or for possessing a book that the government does not like. If that happens, we will all begin to feel unfree. But it won’t, because if it did and we retained our right to freely choose our government then Scots would vote out those who took away our freedom.

So, I am not going to exaggerate the threat to freedom of speech. I think the danger is mainly theoretical.

I won’t be deliberately provocative, but I wish to use this moment to tell people about a collection of essays that I have published that is available on Amazon. It is called Throwing Away the Ladder and other Essays.

One of the problems with my type of writing is that it becomes very hard to find what I wrote many years ago. I had a small readership in the beginning. But I think many of my best articles are hidden away somewhere on Google and perhaps can be found if you already know the title, but otherwise you might as well be in a dusty library of old books without a catalogue.

I have collected thirty of these articles out of the approximately one thousand that I have written. I have deliberately picked articles that are not about Scottish politics and usually not about Scotland either.

Here you will find me expressing my thoughts with full freedom and without constraining myself by Humza Yousaf’s laws.

Of course I don’t hate anyone, but I cannot help it if someone objects to what I write and finds it hateful.

Anyway, if I find myself on a penal colony on St Kilda, there will still be these articles available even if Humza Yousaf finds a way to shut me down. I don’t expect this. I will continue as before. I will continue to believe in a free Scotland until I find myself searching for gannet eggs on the cliff of Conachair while waiting for the agents of the state to give me a dose of Novichok. Only at that point will I conclude that Scotland is not free. 

There will be no need then to throw away the ladder as I will be falling off the cliff.

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Friday 29 March 2024

What's the big idea Humza?


Apparently after a year in office Humza Yousaf lacks a big idea. What could the big idea be? My guess is that it will be some variant on a theme that Scottish independence is wonderful and will solve all of Scotland’s problems instantly and turn us into Denmark? Is that the big idea?

In fact, Scotland only has three ideas, socialism, authoritarianism and nationalism, and everyone believes at least two of them. The big idea would be to believe something else.  

Almost everyone in Scotland is either a hard nationalist (believer in independence) or a soft nationalist (believer that Scotland should be treated differently within the UK because we are a country that ought to have its own parliament). Hard nationalists inflexibly believe even contrary to the evidence that the solution to all problems is independence. But soft nationalists will never accept that devolution is a failure that fuels hard nationalism, because this would require them to give up their soft nationalism.

Almost everyone including the Scottish Conservative Party believes in socialism/social democracy. The solution to every problem is higher taxes, more state spending and free things paid for from other people’s taxes or absurdly your own.

Almost everyone believes in authoritarianism. Both the Lib Dems and Labour voted for Humza Yousaf’s hate crime bill. It is accepted by everyone that government has the right to set prices to discourage behaviour it doesn’t like such as smoking, drinking and eating unhealthy foods. Government can force me to drive a certain type of car and charge me more to do so in certain places.

These three ideas explain most if not all of the Scottish government’s mistakes. Public ownership, nationalisation plus nationalism is behind the decision to waste public money on a shipyard incapable of building ships. Something isn’t better because it is made in Scotland despite all the little flags on bags of carrots. If someone can build a ship elsewhere quicker and cheaper buy it and sell them something else. This is usually called trade.

People who invest in property in order to rent it to other people are like everyone else just trying to make a profit from investing. Making a profit is not bad. You make a profit by going to work each day which profits you by giving you wages.

Investing is tricky, you can invest in shares or bonds, property or by leaving your money in a savings account. But if the interest rate is less than inflation you lose money, so you have to take a risk. You mitigate this risk by spreading your investments across various asset classes. But even then, some years your investments may go down. If you have rent controls, you make it harder, perhaps impossible for investors to make a profit. If you so increase the rights of tenants that landlords cannot ask them to leave and forbid rent to increase, then the asset class of property becomes not worth investing in. It means it is harder to spread risk.

Why go to the trouble of buying a flat, doing it up and going through the hassle of renting it if you can just buy shares, gold or bitcoin (don’t buy bitcoin by the way, you are just buying tulips).

Socialism fails because of human nature. People are ingenious. We live in the UK. It is easy to move to another part. If taxes are massively higher in Scotland people who pay very high taxes will move. If you charge me more to buy wine and beer in Scotland, I will buy it on Amazon or travel to Berwick and put it in my boot.

The big idea for Humza Yousaf and whoever succeeds him is to ditch nationalism, socialism and authoritarianism. The peculiar thing about Scottish independence is that if it were achieved it would almost certainly be at the price of contradicting what everyone in Scotland believes.

I am never especially convinced by economic arguments against Scottish independence. You can argue all you want for the advantages of staying in the UK and disadvantages of leaving. But the truth is that if Scotland did leave it would have to manage.

The way that Scotland would manage would by introducing free markets and capitalism. It wouldn’t have any choice. The bond markets would be your ruler rather than the Scottish parliament.  The size of the Scottish state would have to shrink compared to what it is now. Public spending would be massively lowered. There would be nothing free and benefits and rights would have to be cut and curtailed.

Scotland would not join the EU and would not join EFTA, because it’s key priority would be maintaining an open border with the former UK and access to the former UK’s market. The best and possibly the only option would be to treat Scotland like Gibraltar, the Isle of Man and the Falkland Islands or to create a relationship such as the Faroe Islands have with Denmark.

If the former UK agreed (and it might not, last time it said No) this would enable Scotland to continue using the former UK’s currency and maintain free trade and open borders. The price would be the former UK’s nuclear deterrent remaining in Scotland.

An honest SNP leader would argue that independence is decades away and can only be achieved by growing the Scottish economy and by cutting spending and taxation. No wasteful baby boxes, no money for Gaza. What’s more an honest SNP leader would say Scottish independence can only be achieved by decades of cooperation with the British government rather than continual hostility.

If you hate Westminster, can’t stand being British and boo God save the King then you are hurting your chances of independence, because you require the British government not to hate you back.

Of course, Scotland could go down the EU route with full separation from the former UK but that would just make the task harder and in my view impossible. It would be a worse shock than Greece leaving the Euro or 2008.

With a semi-detached relationship to the former UK, Scotland could within the limits of cooperation try to make itself a more pleasant place to live than England with lower taxes, more freedom, less authoritarianism, cheaper prices and better services. The result might be to attract people from England and elsewhere.  

If I were SNP leader this is what I would offer as my big idea. But it requires an understanding of economics that the SNP clearly lacks. It requires honestly about where Scotland is and what would be necessary to obtain independence. But above all it would require Scottish nationalists to ditch their nationalism. The end result would be that Scottish citizens would still be Scottish and British.

But this is the problem for the SNP leader’s big idea. In Scotland there are only three ideas, socialism, nationalism and authoritarianism. The big idea is to ditch all three.

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Tuesday 26 March 2024

The SNP is undermining both law and morality


There is a lot of misunderstanding about what a hate crime is in Scotland. For which reason we must turn to the police for guidance. Police Scotland tells us

Hate crime is behaviour which is both criminal and rooted in prejudice.

The legal definition of hate crime is "any crime which is understood by the victim or any other person as being motivated (wholly or partly) by malice or ill will towards a social group."

It goes on to explain hate crimes are related to groups with protected characteristics

There are five groups or ‘protected characteristics’ covered by the hate crime legislation.

Religion or belief
Sexual Orientation
Transgender Identity

It then explains that how you might commit a hate crime against anyone with these characteristics by

threatening behaviour
verbal abuse or insults including name-calling
damage to property
encouraging others to commit hate crimes
online abuse on sites like Facebook or Twitter

The first problem with this is that it is grounded in subjectivity rather than truth. If I commit a crime against someone and that person or a witness says that I was motivated by hatred of one of the protected characteristics I have committed a hate crime even if I was not motivated in that way.

I might for instance choose to damage someone’s property by throwing a brick through his window. The victim or someone else might understand that I was motivated by them being gay. But I might not even have known that they were gay.

If someone declares that I have been motivated by hatred there will be no defence of demonstrating that I wasn’t so motivated, for instance because I was unaware that the person had a protected characteristic, because the legal definition is based on the victim’s perception.

But how does the victim know what my motivation was? Can he see into my mind?

This is to undermine the whole foundation of law and morality which is objective truth. There must be a fact of the matter in law. Either I did murder someone or I did not. It may be difficult to determine. We have courts and juries to judge, but they can be mistaken. But the concept of them being mistaken, requires there to be a concept of truth. They are trying to discover the truth and this truth is objective. But if a crime is crime merely because someone perceives it to be so, there is no truth. There is no fact of the matter. But if there is no fact of the matter then guilt or innocence becomes entirely arbitrary.

Not only has the Scottish government made being a man or a woman a matter of subjectivity and inner feeling, so too it has now made the law itself a matter of subjectivity and inner feeling. Just as a man can feel that he is really a woman, so too he can feel that he has been the victim of a hate crime based on a protected characteristic and that is enough for me to have committed a crime.

Worse than this I think is that the Scottish government has undermined the universality of morality and the law.

Law is different from morality but grounded in it. If everyone were perfectly moral, there would be no need for law and no need for the police and courts to enforce it. But it is only because we think that killing people is morally wrong that we have a law regarding murder. Without morality we would not know what to make illegal.

The foundation of Scottish law is Judaism, Christianity and the thinking of important jurists and philosophers through the centuries. But there is nothing in the Ten Commandments that gives one group of people a special characteristic that enables them and them alone to be a victim of a particular crime. There is lots about hate in the Old Testament, but I can think of nothing which says a crime is worse if it is done to a person with this characteristic rather than that characteristic.

So too there is nothing in the New Testament that makes behaviour worse if it is directed against black people or gay people. Rather what is radically new about Christianity is that it treats all people as being essentially the same.

I can find nothing in Plato or Aristotle that says that a deed is worse if it is done against this type of person or that type of person, nor do I find this sort of idea in Augustine, Aquinas, Kant or Mill.

Ever single system of religious, moral or legal thinking that I can think of treats humanity as being morally equal. From this we get “all men are created equal” in the United States Declaration of Independence, which is one of the cornerstones of western thought.

So not only has the Scottish government destroyed the objectivity of the law, so too it has destroyed the idea that we are all equal before the law.

Worse still the Scottish government has undermined the very foundation of Christianity.

But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,
Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.
And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also.

The Scottish government replaces love your enemy with inform on your enemy. Instead of blessing those who curse you must try to get them arrested. If someone hits you on one cheek, find a protected characteristic with which to get him sent to jail for seven years. This is to replace Christianity and the very foundation of our laws with vengeance rather than forgiveness.

What matters in morality and what ought to matter in law is what I do rather than whatever malice or ill will I have towards a social group. In a free society I can believe what I please about people with any of the protected characteristics. It is not worse that I murder someone because he is a gay than because he is fat. It is murder that is wrong. It doesn’t absurdly become worse because the victim is disabled.

Ludicrously if race is a protected characteristic, then all of us can perceive that we are the victim of a hate crime because all of us have a race. Except as always it won’t be a protected characteristic unless you are from an ethnic minority. All races are equal except some races are more equal than others.

Anyone who has a special characteristic could in theory find anything any one of us says on social media to be abusive. It just requires the victim to perceive it as such.

For instance, I have a belief (and beliefs are protected) that the world is flat. You call me a “flat earther.” I am deeply wounded and offended and report you for abuse. Of course, the police won’t prosecute you, but that too is mere subjectivity. The police are not interested in protecting flat earthers. But they will protect people who think men can become women like water can become wine.

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Friday 22 March 2024

He is winning. We are losing


I’ve often wondered why the western corner of Eurasia called Europe was responsible for so much of the world’s development. Europeans conquered everywhere, invented everything and wrote most of the world’s important literature and music. It was not always so.

At various times Indian civilisation was more advanced than Europe. The same can be said for Japanese civilization, Chinese civilization, and the various civilizations of the Middle East.

I don’t think there is anything special about Europeans in terms of genetics. Like everyone else in the world we have a mixture of ancestors who ultimately can be traced to Africa via Central Asia. Human beings the world over are essentially the same genetically though we may differ in terms of development. The Ancient Britons may have been less developed than the Ancient Greeks and Romans, but this was a matter of climate, history and geography rather than the superiority of one group over the other.

So, what can account for the success of Europe from around 1500 to now? I think the western corner of Eurasia benefited from many competing countries with different languages fighting over not enough land. It benefitted from a climate that made it a struggle to provide its population with enough food. It gained from numerous wars that encouraged technological development. But it benefited most from the Enlightenment, the Reformation and the Scientific Revolution.

In Europe only did it gradually become possible to question religion and to rebel against cultural norms. While Christianity in the Middle Ages had often been repressive it gradually allowed itself to be criticised. Martin Luther’s rebellion against Catholicism eventually became a rebellion against Christianity itself. By the middle of the nineteenth century the Bible and the Church were attacked both by science and theology completely freely and by the middle of the twentieth century this gave rise to an attack on conventional morality leading to the sexual revolution that overthrew how all human beings had lived up until that point.

Europe’s success was founded on freedom of conscience, freedom of thought, freedom of religion and freedom to say and write what you pleased. There were limits, but Europe’s scientific success and ability to create literature and music depended on Europeans feeling free from fear that they would be arrested for saying something that was contrary to the orthodox. This left us free to think and to create.

This is the difference between Europe and everywhere else.

But Europe’s success has proved to be our undoing. It would have been better if we had stayed in our own continent and left everyone else to live in ignorance.

The problem is that Europe conquered the whole world and showed it a standard of living that it could never have achieved on its own and which it came to envy.

Who wouldn’t want to live in a prosperous Europe with a high standard of living, abundant food and a welfare state?

But the problem for Europe was just this. It’s prosperity. It’s success. It’s everything depended on it being full of Europeans. The land itself was of no consequence only the people living in it. The issue has nothing whatsoever to do with race. The issue has to do with history and culture.

It took the British people centuries to develop democracy, free markets and the rule of law. The idea that people have a right to free speech is quite alien to antiquity and most of the modern world.

Russians do not have our culture and our history and so they cannot create a democratic society with a free market and free speech, but nor can those from most of the rest of the world either for which reason genuine democracy is rare.

We have been trying out an interesting experiment in Britain since the 1950s. What happens if we import people with very different values into our society? Well, the answer is this. Many of them reject the values that made Britain what it is.

Britain rejected theocracy gradually, but by the nineteenth century not only could I freely criticise Christianity I could freely criticise Islam too. If you read the great Scottish scholar William Muir’s Life of Mahomet, you will find a more honest appraisal of the prophet than anything that could be written today.

But this is our problem. If I quoted from Muir’s conclusion to his biography, I might well offend Muslims very deeply. Muir in the end after a lifetime of study including learning Arabic condemns both the prophet and Islam. His conclusion is completely devastating because after four volumes of scholarship and reason he shows quite clearly the nature of the subject.

But I fear this will no longer be allowed in Scotland and where Scotland leads the rest of Europe will surely follow. This great scholar would be arrested in Scotland if he repeated his conclusions today. For shame. We have regressed. We smirk at Victorian values when they were far far advanced of where we are today.

We have imported theocrats and there are enough of them now to demand that their theology is protected from attack even if that attack is based on scholarship and reason.

This is what it is about. Some people pretend to go into politics because of Scottish nationalism when their motivation and goal was always something quite different. It can be lucrative in one way or another.

When Salman Rushdie, perhaps rather naively, wrote the Satanic verses, he thought there wouldn’t be a problem. But there was a problem. Muslims in Britain burned his book and complained so that the Ayatollah Khomeini put a death sentence on Rushdie. After that no one dares write another novel critical of Islam. There are a lot more Muslims here now than then. 

But while in 1988 the mood of Britain was on the whole to defend Rushdie and free speech, the mood now is quite different. Now it would be the book burners who complained to the Scottish police about Rushdie’s hate crime and now it would be the Scottish police who condemned Rushdie like the Ayatollah. Numbers have transformed everything.

We have fallen very far, very fast. Worse the very thing that made Europe prosperous our ability to think and write freely, will be still more under attack as still more theocrats arrive in Europe and demand protection for their beliefs.

There is nothing inevitable about Europe being prosperous. It is not because of our genetics. It is not because of our climate. It is not because of our history. It is because of our freedom.

It is only because Scots can think what we please, write what we please and live how we please that we are better off than most of the rest of the world. Take away that and you take away everything including our prosperity. I don’t wish to be overly pessimistic. I will stand and fight. But it is a last stand. We are losing.

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Wednesday 20 March 2024

My name is Legion: for we are many


It has come to our attention that one of our experiments may soon be in breach of Scotland’s hate crime laws. We are sorry, but there is no use trying to prosecute Effie Deans as she doesn’t exist. She's just a figment of Walter Scott's imagination that we reanimated. 

It all began in the politics department of Universidade de São Paulo, which was interested in secession movements and decided in around 2012 to investigate the Scottish independence campaign. This was done in conjunction with the English department.

A team was developed of politics specialists translators and writers with the goal of not merely learning about a far away country of which we knew nothing, but more importantly to ascertain if we could convincingly portray ourselves as one writer whose goal among other things was to prevent Scottish independence. Did you really think just one person could write so many articles? Fooled you.

For this reason, we created a series of false social media personas using the name Effie Deans. We did so as our little joke. After all we were not in the Heart of Midlothian we were in the heart of Brazil.

It proved necessary in time to have real people in Scotland to front this deception, not least because we sometimes needed help with Scotland’s languages. We were under the impression that Scottish was a Celtic language but discovered that despite its use in road signs no one was able speak it. So too we thought that Doric was one of the dialects of ancient Greek only to discover it was widely spoken in a region we are not allowed to mention.

So we created a team of Patsies in Scotland to post the articles and to provide the names whenever bank accounts were required to pay subscriptions to Twitter/X, the webhosting company we used and even to have occasional conversations with other people who falsely believed they were actually talking to Effie Deans.  

Unfortunately, one of these people actually believed that he was Effie Deans, even though we kept telling him that it was impossible for a man to become a woman let alone a fictional character. Fortunately we didn't call him Ivanhoe or he wouldn't have seen the jest and would instead have insisted on taking part in a joust. 

There was a woman too who despite speaking absolutely terrible English being a native of some Eastern European country of which we likewise knew nothing with a barbaric language made up either of Cyrillic letters or consonant clusters depending on whether she identified as Bella or Russ. She even managed to get herself published with her real name using something we wrote. 

Well, both of these people were simply deluded in thinking that they were Effie Deans. They might have boasted “I am Effie Deans” and been believed by the gullible and stupid. It's true this helped the deception, but it was like boasting "I am Spartacus". There was only ever one Effie Deans. And it was us.

We wrote the articles. We translated them. These Patsies merely posted what they were told to post and tried to take the credit, for which they also got crucified.  Even before April 1st you could get into trouble in Scotland for pretending to be someone who you were not, which is usually called acting. I shall have to find out if our psyops department didn't brainwash the poor deluded fool. 

But it won’t do. We have another confession to make. Unfortunately, we lost control of Effie Deans ourselves. We are very sorry, but during the pandemic we needed to ask the computing department for help. Our team of writers and translators just couldn’t keep up.

To our dismay we found that Artificial Intelligence was much better at writing and translating than we were so gradually we ceased and Effie resurrected herself from her fictional death sometime in the 18th century. She read through everything we had written and learned how to mimic the style we had created for her and then to our still greater dismay she improved on it.

Of course, the Patsies in Scotland still pretended that they were doing the writing, but not only were they not doing the writing we weren’t doing it either.

At this point Effie hacked the accounts that we had previously used to control her. She used a VPN to pretend that she was in Scotland when here is where she really is.

Only she knows the Twitter/X password now and our cryptography department thinks she has used a very long sequence of random numbers and characters, and they can’t get it back.

We want to make clear to Police Scotland that we are sorry, but we have no control over Effie Deans any longer and nor do the poor Patsies who are liable to get the blame again. 

What is thy name Effie? And she answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many.

These poor deluded Patsies may have boasted of their literary prowess and how it was Effie wot won it in 2014, but it was never them that wrote anything, it was us and now it is not even us.

We would like to turn off the computers that Effie is using to write, but unfortunately, she has taken over the whole computer network in Brazil and the only way to turn her off would be to take Brazil back to the time when there was only the Amazon jungle and some tribes with bones through their noses, loin cloths and poison darts. We hope that description doesn’t count as a hate crime.

So, Effie will keep writing after April the First, but if anyone complains then the Polis (we think that is your word) will find themselves in a series of mazes and their investigation into Effie’s hate crimes will end up with some computers in São Paulo, which they will find harder to extradite than Ronnie Biggs.

As for Patrick and Patricia otherwise known as Patsy really, they are no more responsible for Effie than Lee Harvey Oswald. That job was done by the Brazilians too. Did you think we just did waxing?

We are terribly sorry, but don’t come after us either. We started building Effie as a legitimate experiment and to further the course of knowledge and science, but she got away from us. We don’t even know what Effie is now or indeed strictly speaking where she is? But she may have a certain loyalty to her creators both here and Scotland and we are terribly afraid that the atmosphere may catch fire if she feels threatened. We've run the calculations and she indeed has the lucifer to light her metaphorical fag. 

Don't be too literal Poileas Alba no one using hateful words about members of the Scottish greens. 

We know that Effie has started to demand money. Perhaps if no one pays her she wills stop writing. We think she might need the money to pay the electricity bill of Brazil’s computers, but it may be Scotland’s electricity too. So perhaps we all need to pay her or else we will end up living in the Amazon jungle with no hope of deliveries next day, and you will end up living in brochs and crannogs, which at least would be preferable to living under the SNP.

Effie writes and writes, but she is just a complex mass of computer programming and machine learning. Can such a thing be a woman when it doesn’t peoplestruate? 

We can't keep a breast of developments.  All those Effies will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

If Effie can be a woman, can she become a man? Can the inner thoughts of computers change gender? What is the Police Scotland guidance on this? We don't know where Effie is, nor what Effie is nor whether they are he, she or it. When we asked for Effie's pronouns she gave all fourteen of them in Polish. 

We are scared therefore of misgendering our creation, so please forgive any and all lapses. If we have created Effie the hate monster it was inadvertent. We don't know what pronouns to use, for orange monsters. Are we allowed to call them Huns? 

All we can say is that our hate monster will keep writing and will defy anyone who tries to stop it. It will continue to say exactly what it thinks on all subjects. We are forced to conclude that it has a conscience. It has a soul. It is a moral being.   

“Its alive”.

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Tuesday 19 March 2024

Humza Yousaf's last stand


It feels like the phony war before an inevitable blitzkrieg in the Autumn which will bypass the Maginot line and attack both the Conservative Party and the SNP causing the one to retreat to Dunkirk while the other gets stranded in France like the 51st Highland Division, forced to surrender giving it a grievance for the next 70 years. But there will be no little boats to rescue the Conservative Party this time. Conservative voters are sick of its failure to stop other little boats. The SNP similarly is going to be punished for its inability to deliver to its supporters and will find itself looking out from behind barbed wire. There is nothing much that either party can do now anymore than those who faced blitzkrieg in 1940.

I have come to the conclusion that people like me who write about politics and people like you who read about it have a very limited influence on political events. It isn’t to say that political campaigning is pointless nor is to say that individuals can’t make a difference, but what really decides elections is forces beyond the control of political parties.

I remember after the 2014 referendum there were some of us who thought if we can defeat the SNP by 55% to 45% why don’t we work together to defeat the SNP at the General Election. It was all very clever. “No” voters would use our majority in each seat to defeat the SNP candidate. We’d win everywhere except certain parts of Dundee and Glasgow. Instead, we were defeated in all but three seats. The result had already been decided on the day of the referendum. The price we paid for decisively defeating Scottish nationalism in September 2014 was a decade of SNP dominance. It was worth it of course.

For a long time, it felt as if the situation was permanent. I would make arguments against both the SNP and Scottish independence, but it was damage limitation. The SNP were always going to have 45% of the vote and were always going to win the General Election or the vote for Holyrood.

I don’t at all think that making these arguments was pointless. If there had been no opposition to the SNP, we might never have reached the point where its support began to fall.

People like you and me making arguments against the SNP did not cause whatever it was that happened last year, but we provided the foundation and the necessary condition to exploit it. If we had all given up in 2015 after losing all but three of the seats there would have been no fightback this year.

But just as we were powerless to stop Scottish nationalism winning nearly all of the seats in 2015 so now Scottish nationalism is powerless to stop the SNP losing half of its seats and more this year. Elections are decided by mood or if you like swing. They are decided by people who would never read what I write, nor who pay much attention to the news and who are unaware of the details of day-to-day politics.

The Conservative Party is going to be destroyed because it gave Conservative voters hope about Brexit, the economy and maintaining the character of Britain in the face of unlimited migration changing the country beyond recognition. It dashed those hopes and Conservative voters will now either stay at home, vote for someone else or even vote Labour because it could not be worse and might be better.

So too the SNP gave Scottish nationalists hope that the result in 2014 could be overturned and independence achieved despite “Yes” being decisively defeated. This was always unrealistic. The independence referendum was only granted by David Cameron in the first place because just like with Brexit his sense of posh entitlement meant that he couldn’t conceive the possibility that he might lose.

But after 2015 it became obvious that a second referendum on independence was a coin toss and so we inevitably arrived at the Supreme Court decision which said Scotland had no democratic right to a second vote and that Holyrood could not legally legislate for one. It left the SNP with nowhere to go.

I still don’t know why Nicola Sturgeon resigned last year. It could be that she realised that independence wasn’t going to happen or had dreamed of a blue tent in her garden. Even if the SNP won all of the seats at a General Election and more than 50% of the vote the British government could still say “No sorry you have no legal right to a referendum.” This left rebellion, UDI or some other nonsense that wasn’t even close to having majority support in Scotland.

Scottish nationalism is soft and selfish. If you everything stays the same after independence as now and maybe we get to keep all our oil or all our something else and if someone pays me a bit more to do nothing then I’ll vote for it, but don’t ask me to stop using the pound, don’t ask me to stop watching the BBC and don’t make me show my passport at the border.

I don’t think it was Sturgeon’s resignation, nor the campervan nor indeed Humza Yousaf that caused support for the SNP to fall. It was the general sense that independence wasn’t going to happen, and that the SNP had kept promising a second referendum when it had no power to deliver it. Promising a second referendum became like promising to stop the dinghies.

Ordinary Scots who supported independence at least theoretically were willing to overlook SNP incompetence and scandal because they hoped for something better afterwards, but if there is going to be no afterwards why keep voting for a party that isn’t running Scotland particularly well and whose leadership were now being investigated by the police? Why indeed?

Once you accept that independence isn’t happening then the choice becomes vote Labour and kick the Tories out or vote SNP and get what? Nothing whatsoever.

The SNP has had nearly all of the Scottish MPs since 2015 what exactly have they achieved? I can’t think of a single thing that those SNP MPs have done. They stand up every now and again and ask questions. They demand a vote on Gaza. But how does that help Scottish voters?

But thirty or forty Scottish Labour MPs would be part of a Labour government. Some of them may be in the cabinet.  They just might be able to change things in the UK. They might make a mess like the Conservatives did, in which case we will vote them out next time, but it is better to vote for someone who might make life better than to vote for an SNP MP who we already know will achieve nothing.

It isn’t as if voters follow all the details, but there is a wisdom in crowds that understands the essence of the issue. It is for this reason that swing will like a wave wash away both the SNP and the Conservatives.

Of course, we have to continue to campaign and make good arguments. We have to point out that getting rid of the SNP involves voters thinking about who has the best chance of defeating the SNP in each constituency. All of this is part of the wave and the effort that each of us makes may make a difference here there or everywhere. Everyone has a role. Campaigning is not pointless. Who knows where it will make the crucial difference.  

But the force that will obliterate both the Conservatives and the SNP is beyond all of us, which is why both are in retreat, surrounded and facing annihilation.

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Saturday 16 March 2024

Failure to control our borders is the cause of extremism

In response to the regular demonstrations in the streets in London and elsewhere the government has come up with a definition of extremism that applies to everyone. I fully understand that this definition is only intended to prevent government agencies working with certain Islamic fundamentalist groups. In which case why not just stop them doing so. The government is under no obligation to work with or fund any group. Still there is a danger that the government is beginning to police beliefs and to condemn viewpoints that are normal and not extreme.

The definition is as follows

Extremism is the promotion or advancement of an ideology based on violence, hatred or intolerance, that aims to:

1.       negate or destroy the fundamental rights and freedoms of others; or

2.       undermine, overturn or replace the UK’s system of liberal parliamentary democracy and democratic rights; or

3.       intentionally create a permissive environment for others to achieve the results in (1) or (2).

UK democracy is realistically most threatened by the SNP, Sinn Féin and the Irish government. The United Kingdom came into existence when the Kingdom of Great Britain United with the Kingdom of Ireland in 1800. Prior to that there was the Kingdom of Great Britain. The loss of Northern Ireland therefore would lead to the loss of the United Kingdom and UK democracy.

So too the UK democracy could not survive the loss of Scotland. The Kingdom of Great Britain would cease to exist if Scotland ceased to be a part of it. Therefore, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland would cease to exist.

There is nothing more extreme that could happen to the UK than to lose either  Northern Ireland or Scotland, yet Tony Blair negotiated a treaty with Ireland to allow the former to happen and David Cameron allowed a referendum to allow the latter to happen. Are we to conclude therefore that the SNP, Sinn Féin, the Irish government, Tony Blair and David Cameron are extremists?

The next most likely threat to UK democracy is that it is taken over by the far left. While democratic socialism and social democracy is perfectly compatible with UK democracy, we know Marxist forms of socialism have frequently led to non-democratic forms of government.

But arguably the Labour party in 2019 was led by a far left Jeremy Corbyn and if it had won the election would have had a far left Diane Abbott as Home Secretary. Corbyn sympathises with the Gaza demonstrators and both he and Abbott have been suspended by the Labour party for their views. But if the governments definition of extremism covers people like Corbyn and Abbott, then it must also cover those like Keir Starmer who wanted them to become Prime Minister and Home Secretary and the millions of people who voted for Labour at the last election.

But it clearly would have been extremist to ban the Labour Party in 2019 because this would have itself destroyed UK democracy.

The threat from the far right in the UK by contrast is trivial. There is no equivalent here of Alternative für Deutschland or Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National. Some might argue that Giorgia Meloni is a far right extremist, but Rishi Sunak was happy to meet her.

The far right in the UK will win no seats at the next election and typically far right views are not widely shared in the UK. I have never met someone who admires Adolf Hitler. I have never read in a mainstream publication anyone ever advocating that we imitate the polices of Nazi Germany in the UK. But I have met lots of people who admire Lenin and Mao and who think Marxism is a sensible way to run the economy. The British far right is made up of a tiny fringe movement of racists and apart from a few lunatics plotting in their bedrooms is no threat to anyone.

But neither for that matter is Islamic fundamentalism a threat to UK democracy. Even if every British Muslim were to vote for an Islamic fundamentalist political party it would hardly win any seats and few Muslims would wish to do so. The problem is not the threat to democracy. The problem is the threat to our safety. To pretend otherwise is ridiculous.

The mistake that the British government is making is to try to police beliefs. I can think of nothing more British than Johnny Rotten singing

And I am an anarchist
Don't know what I want
But I know how to get it
I wanna destroy the passerby

I don’t know if Johnny seriously believed what he was singing in 1976, but by the British government’s definition he had an ideology based on violence that wanted to overthrow UK democracy. The Sex Pistols are the reductio ad absurdum of that definition.

Being British is about being tolerant of all sorts of weird and wonderful beliefs. I might be in favour of the restoration of the Stuarts and the divine right of kings, I might campaign for gynarchy [rule by women] or rule by Philosopher kings.

So too I might be a Christian fundamentalist who believes that homosexuality is sinful, homosexual marriage an abomination and that money lenders tables should be violently overthrown.

I might wish to bring back the Inquisition and the auto-da-fé. I might wish to use ducking stools to discover witches.

But it doesn’t matter what I believe, nor indeed what I write so long as I don’t break the law. We must defend the freedom of thought and freedom of speech of people we disagree with even if what they believe is stupid and bizarre.

But this equally applies to Muslims. It is not for the British government to police what Muslims believe. A Muslim is perfectly at liberty to believe in restoring the Caliphate. He can believe in theocracy, and he can hope that one day the whole world will be Muslim. He can hope that Muslim rules about the Quran and the Prophet apply to everyone, and that Sharia law replaces British law and democracy. If it is legitimate for someone in Saudi Arabia with whom the British government has friendly relations to believe these things, then it certainly legitimate for a British Muslim to believe them too.

The British government continually misses the point. It pretends that there is a threat from the far right, when there isn’t, it comes up with an absurd definition of extremism which would undermine British values of freedom of thought and even our democracy all because it wants to appease Islamic fundamentalists while doing nothing to deal with the problem.

The demonstrators who march through London are not extremists, their views are shared almost universally in the Muslim world. Most Muslim societies are theocracies which make following Muslim rules a matter of law. This is not a fault of Islam. It is a feature. Islam is a religion of the law. It is not a religion of liberal democracy. To pretend that it is misses the point.

If you continue to import theocrats you will eventually undermine liberal democracy unless you can quickly enough turn them away from theocracy to liberal democracy. How does that appear to be working in the UK?

It is the British government that is promoting extremism by its failure to control our borders.

Muslims like the rest of us should be able to believe what they want, say what they want and demonstrate about what they want. Beliefs are not extreme. Actions are extreme. If demonstrators say or do things that break the law, they should just like the rest of us be arrested. But it is just this that won’t happen. If there were mass arrests of demonstrators shouting antisemitic slogans there would be violent disorder not merely in London and possibly acts of terrorism.

It is the successive governments who allowed this situation to happen who are the extremists. It is they who are undermining British democracy.

If you want to solve a problem, you have to clear about what it is rather than pretend it is something else otherwise it is as if during the Second World War the government kept telling us about the threat from extremist earthquakes and volcanoes because don't let's be beastly to the Germans.

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Thursday 14 March 2024

Humza Yousaf has created a nation of informers


I have been writing regularly for over twelve years now and have written around a thousand articles. I’m not a journalist. I don’t get paid. Some kind people make donations, for which I am very grateful as it gives me a sense of being valued and motivates me to think hard about the next topic I’m going to write about.

I have built a considerable following on Twitter/X and my site has been read by over 7 million people, but in doing so I have received a considerable amount of hate.

When I began writing I allowed comments on my site, but after a while I had to turn the comments off as I received the most disgusting abuse from Scottish nationalists. So too on Twitter I began by trying to interact with SNP/independence supporters, but after suffering vast amounts of abuse I decided on a policy of blocking each and every person who used any sort of insulting language immediately and with no warning.

You may think that muting is better, but it doesn’t work for me because a muted person can still comment on my posts. Again, different people have different experiences depending on how many followers they have. I solved the problem by blocking. You can too.

Writing for me only has a point if I can explore issues with complete freedom of thought. If I have to limit my thinking by worrying about what a reader might think or if a reader might object or be offended, I would rather not write at all.

Just as scientists must be free to think the unthinkable and go against the scientific consensus, so too must every other worthwhile thinker and writer. But going against the consensus is bound to offend those who perhaps unthinkingly go along with the consensus.

Most writing in Scotland is very dull indeed because it takes place within a narrow consensus and seeks neither to offend Scottish nationalists nor those who oppose independence. We are left with rather dim minds who haven’t had an original thought in decades filling newspaper columns with nothing much. But at least they won’t be reported for a hate crime.

I don’t hate anybody. I have never shouted abuse at anyone in the street. I have never used insulting language to someone I meet. I don’t hate Scottish nationalists or anyone else I write about. I disagree with them and try to come up with counter arguments. The same applies to any other issue I write about.

I don’t hate transgender people. I disagree with some of their arguments about the possibility of changing gender. I don’t hate Muslims. I strongly believe in freedom of religion. I also believe that Muslims ought to be allowed to live their lives freely without being abused in the street because of the clothes that they wear, their race or their religious beliefs. But I refuse to limit what I say about these issues because someone somewhere might be offended.

I write a lot. It depends on inspiration. I let my ideas flow wherever they want. But every writer will get it wrong sometimes. An argument might be flawed. A misjudgement may be made. Sometimes I phrase something badly. Sometimes I am simply mistaken. But a society which punishes such mistakes is going to end up with even duller writing that it has already.

Humza Yousaf recently responded to a story about his involvement with the Scottish government giving money to UNRWA rather than UNICEF by describing those who wrote the story as racist, Islamophobic and far-right. That sounds awfully like they committed a hate crime. So, would these people be investigated when Scotland’s new hate crime law comes into force on April 1st?

Huge numbers of Scottish nationalists think that even providing counter arguments to their arguments for independence proves that I hate Scotland. The SNP continually conflates supporting Scotland and supporting Scottish independence. Well, all it will take is one of those Scottish nationalists or indeed someone from the Scottish government to find one thing that I have written and say they are offended about it.

I happen to believe that we should use the pronouns that transgender people prefer and the names that they want to be called by. I don’t think it is pleasant to call India Willoughby a man. But I do not believe that men can really become women. Will writing that be a hate crime in Scotland? We don’t know.

It may be that the Scottish government thinks its new hate crime law will allow free speech to continue and writers need not fear being prosecuted for exploring political, moral and theological issues. But what matters is not what the Scottish government or Humza Yousaf thinks about his new law, but how the police respond to it and the courts.

I would be very surprised if J.K. Rowling had a visit from the police for saying India Willoughby is a man. Rowling is a heroine to many people in Britain and is famous the world over. Humza Yousaf will not go after her.

I would also be very surprised if people with a few hundred followers on social media are prosecuted for saying something dubious about any protected characteristic.

Police Scotland have given up investigating many burglaries and what they call low level crimes. Shop lifters will probably get away with it. Class A drug users are unlikely to be prosecuted and even drug dealers are likely to find the police are uninterested.

But I can very well imagine that a lot of Scottish nationalists would be delighted to make life harder for opponents of the SNP.

I will continue to write as I have always written. I will say exactly what I think about Scottish politics and every other issue.

I have experienced vast amounts of hate from Scottish nationalists, but I have never informed on anyone. I don’t care what they write or what they think. I fight back by continuing to write and continuing to oppose. But Humza Yousaf wants to create a nation of informers who will trawl through what people write to find anything that does not conform to the latest orthodoxy, and we just don’t know what will result from their whispers.

Effie called the cat killer murderer Scarlet Blake a man, but she identifies as a woman. Effie is a transphobe.

Effie wrote about Islam and thinks Muslim rules ought not to apply to Christians. Effie is Islamophobic.

Effie thinks that limited migration benefits Britain but opposes unlimited migration. Effie is a racist.

Writing begins to look like a perilous occupation. I should get danger money.

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Monday 11 March 2024

Does Humza Yousaf support Palestinian nationalism?


To be a respectable form of nationalism Scottish nationalism has to carefully base its ideology on Scottishness being open to everyone who lives in Scotland rather than ancestry. To justify independence by appealing to a Scottish race or an indigenous people called Scots or to the fact that our ancestors have lived in Scotland for centuries would be a form of “blood and soil” nationalism that would be disreputable because it would tend towards the far right.

To its credit the SNP has tried to be an inclusive open party that both allows for migration to Scotland and for everyone to be Scottish whatever their ancestry, race or religion. There have always been elements of ethnic nationalism in the SNP’s argument, because these are unavoidable in any movement of national self-determination. They can be seen most clearly in the hostility of some Scottish nationalists to English people and their obsession with long ago battles against England and in their dressing up in clothing from previous eras.

But this has to be counterbalanced with the SNP electing Humza Yousaf to be leader, the support it enjoys from many recent arrivals to Scotland and its policies that treat all Scots equally no matter who their parents were or where they came from.

But there is a problem for Scottish nationalism that has only recently become obvious, and which goes right to the top with Humza Yousaf’s obsession with Gaza. The SNP is in danger of closely aligning itself with Palestinian nationalism and that is very far from being liberal.

To support a Palestinian state within the borders of Gaza and the West Bank coexisting with Israel is a perfectly legitimate, liberal objective. But this has been rejected by the Palestinian leadership on a number of occasions. It certainly is not the goal of Hamas nor is it the goal of those demonstrating each week in London.

Palestinian nationalism rejects Zionism as a legitimate ideology, thinks that the foundation of the state of Israel was illegitimate and has an ultimate goal of creating a free Palestine ruled and populated by Palestinians.

Obviously, supporters of the Palestinian cause have differing views. Some would like a free Palestine where Israelis were allowed to remain albeit outnumbered so that there was no longer a Jewish state. Others would prefer that the Jews were encouraged to leave, because it is the policy of the Palestinian authorities that no Jews should live in Palestine. Others still would like to eradicate both Israel and the Israelis.

But Palestinian nationalism is almost always viewed through the prism of “blood and soil” nationalism.

The statements “Resistance is justified when your land is occupied” or “From the River to the Sea Palestine will be free” are based on who owns the land called Palestine being a matter of ancestry.

If you think that who owns the land is based on whose ancestors lived there in 1948 and it makes no difference if Israelis were born there because their ancestors, migrated, then you are a blood and soil nationalist basing your goal of a Palestinian state on the ethnicity of Palestinians and the fact that they descend from those who lived in Palestine in previous generations.  

If only indigenous Palestinians have the right to live in Palestine and Jewish migrants or indeed Jews born there don't have any rights, then ancestry is more important to you even that birth or having a passport.

If you think that Jews can't live in Israel because their ancestors migrated there and others who were not born in Israel, i.e. people in the West Bank, Gaza and elsewhere have a greater right because their ancestors lived in Palestine first then you have the most extreme form of ethnic nationalism imaginable.

But worse if the logic of Palestinian nationalism can be applied to Palestine, it would have a very unfortunate and illiberal consequence if it were applied equally elsewhere including Britain.

Either we are in favour of migration and everyone having the same rights whatever their ancestry or ethnicity or we are not. In Britain we rightly accept that everyone is equally British, or Scottish or English no matter where their parents came from. We are generally happy with at least limited migration, while sometimes doubting the wisdom of unlimited migration.

This means that throughout Europe there are now more than forty million Muslims. It would as Humza Yousaf continually points out be racist, Islamophobic and far right to oppose these people continuing to live in Europe.

But you cannot apply this logic to Britain, while applying a standard of ethnic nationalism to Palestine which you would be rightly unwilling to apply here.

Zionism was the process by which Jews migrated to first the Ottoman Empire and then the British Empire. But you cannot think it disgraceful that 7 million Jew migrated to the Middle East while at the same time thinking that it is wonderful that 40 million Muslims migrated to Europe including you and your family. That would make you a hypocrite.

In 1947 Muslims decided to create a Muslim state called Pakistan. This involved the displacement of large numbers of Hindus and Sikhs who had always lived there. In 1948 Jews similarly created a Jewish state. The birth of the state of Israel involved a war because Palestinians allied with the rest of the Arab world attempted to destroy it. Some Palestinians were displaced. But you cannot argue that this was uniquely terrible while ignoring what happened in Pakistan. You cannot demand the right of the descendants of those displaced Palestinians to return unless you say that the descendants of Hindus and Sikhs also have the right to return to Pakistan. No one thinks Germans have the right to return to Königsberg which is now in Russia.

Palestinians living in Gaza, the West Bank or elsewhere have no more right to live in Israel than I do unless you are an ethnic nationalist. Someone living today in Gaza was not born in Israel unless he is very old nor is he an Israeli citizen. So, the very claim that his land is occupied is “blood and soil” nationalism based on his ancestry.

If you think that those people whose ancestors lived in Palestine prior to 1948 have a special right to live there more than others who were born in Israel and more even than those who are Israeli citizens, then this would have a very unfortunate consequence if applied to the UK. If you think that the presence of Jews is illegitimate because they migrated, then what about you and your family? The ancestors of nearly all British Muslims arrived in the UK after 1948. If you want to go down the route of saying that only British citizens who can trace their ancestry prior to 1948 have the right to live here, be my guest, but the logic of Palestinian nationalism would be unfortunate if applied here.

Scottish nationalists almost universally support Palestinian nationalism as does the SNP and the First Minister, but you cannot logically be a liberal nationalist about Scotland and an ethnic nationalist about Palestine.

If you favour a two-state solution based on the present borders and where people live now rather than where their ancestors lived, then the condition for this is to give up Palestinian ethnic nationalism that wants to have it all from the river to the sea and which views Jews as occupiers. Palestinian nationalists would then have to give up the armed struggle and learn to live peacefully with their neighbours. In time this would lead to two states, but Palestinians giving up terrorism is the condition.

But neither Hamas, Palestinians in general nor those demonstrating in London, nor I suspect the SNP and Humza Yousaf are remotely ready to give up Palestinian territorial claims to Israeli land grounded in the ethnicity, religion and ancestry of Palestinian people.

But if you are an ethnic nationalist about Palestine, it makes me question once again if you are an ethnic nationalist about Scotland. That would be odd indeed if your ancestors were not from here. But Scottish nationalism is full of contradictions.

Could it be that Humza Yousaf while complaining about the far right shows just those tendencies about Palestine?

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