The Referendum Murders (paperback)

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Friday, 9 June 2017

The Way ahead – the day after …

My Twitter thoughts on yesterday and the events of today so far.

EARLY THOUGHTS THIS MORNING

My constituency, Edinburgh West was won convincingly by LibDem Christine Jardine. It has traditionally been LibDem over many years.

A single question now dominates my mind. Who is going to save us from nuclear extinction now?

On results to date, it seems that Scotland is the saviour of the Union and Tory Government. It'll be interesting to see how world views it.

Am I despondent? I am not. There's hope for civilised values - the best are re-energised and the worst have no real cause for rejoicing. Ulster Unionists are propping up Theresa May in forming a Government.
Weak and wobbly, she's headed for Buckingham Palace to get Queen's OK.

If anybody 'won' the UK general election campaign, it is Jeremyy Corbyn. SNP won in Scotland. So there's hope. Yes, there's definitely hope.

A Tory PM had to go to the Queen with her coat on a shaky nail and only an "understanding" from DUP to redeem her folly. Hell mend her. The Queen gave Theresa May the go-ahead to form a government. She'll now form a goverment - as the puppet of the DUP-stringpullers.

G-sus! Can it survive long? Not likely!

LATER THOUGHTS
 
 Theresa May/DUP deal "Decisions that affect London will now be taken in Belfast" BBC News

Is that price worth paying, Your Royal Majesty? Has the over-rated spinner from Down Under - LyntonCrosby - put the overrated Theresa May down under? John McTernan and Julia Gillard all over again?

Theresa May is now to the Tory Party what the Edsel was to the Ford Company Motor Company.

Has Lynton Crosby resigned yet? "Strong and stable" must now rank with "You're never alone with a Strand" as a persuasive marketing pitch. Theresa May's judgment is now fatally damaged - tactically, strategically - and for me, morally. Oot, oot, oot!

(Any Stephen Gethins voter can now entertain the belief that it might have been their vote alone that secured Stephen's seat. Democracy!)

Theresa May's now lost the confidence of the Tory Party. Her enemies are gathering, her allies are demoralised. Her days are numbered. Good! By the Tory Party’s ruthless standards, Theresa May is now a loser and Ruth Davidson a saviour. Where will they go from here? Who knows?

Corbyn and Nicola now need the LibDems and DUP in some kind of understanding to defeat Tories - that's the reality. Unlikely bedfellows?

As Marcus Chown‏ @marcuschown tweeted -

How can someone who misread UK electorate read 27 EU leaders? How can someone who is afraid to debate negotiate with 27 EU leaders?

There are radical_options open to SNP. FM won't adopt them, so I won't list them. Nicola's cautious strategies leave her with good options.

The Rainbow Coalition seems likely to be a Coalition of Opposition if Theresa May gets the Queen's OK. She will. Brenda's not a radical.

Perhaps the most idiotic question ever put by a BBC presenter was put by BBC today to Corbyn "Don't you think you should resign as leader?"

Given the hung Parliament and dependent on how Corbyn sees his role, it's not inconceivable that we could have another general election.

The electorates of Moray and Gordon must now face the consequences of their vote - they have lost two great Parliamentarians and gained - what?

The Scottish Parliament’s  vote to call #indyref2 at a time of Nicola's choosing - or not - remains. Corbyn must decide on his view of Scotland. We are essentially thrown back to Nicola's strategic position at 2015 manifesto launch - and in this election. It's about Brexit, not indy.

Whatever Corbyn decides on Rainbow Coalition he must work with SNP to have any impact on the Tories. Only a coalition can secure government.
Westminster has lost two great Parliamentarians - Angus Robertson and Alex Salmond. They are not lost to SNP, to democracy or independence.

Take heart - we still have Pete Wishart and the spirit of Runrig in Westminster!

What are the "Tory landslide" pollsters saying today?
SNP and Greens share many core values and core objectives with Corbyn's Labour - excluding Union and independence - and a common Tory enemy.

SNP will now have a pivotal role in UK politics in supporting a Labour-led Rainbow Coalition - IF Labour has the sense to pursue one.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Nicola’s four big decisions - maybe the most fateful ones of her career…

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, faces in the next few weeks what will possibly be the four biggest decisions of her career –

1. Whether to call #indyref in those few weeks or not, or put it on a back burner until after UK/EU negotiations following the triggering of Article 50 are concluded

2. If she calls it in the next few weeks, to determine the date for the referendum ballot in 2018

3.To decide on the SNP Government’s position on Scotland’s EU membership in the referendum campaign.

4. To decide on the action to be taken if the UK Government either

refuses to sanction the independence referendum and reach an Edinburgh Agreement Two on its timing, the question, and how it should be conducted

or

tries to impose or negotiate unacceptable conditions of approval on such an Edinburgh Agreement Two.

The necessary sequence of events if the FM decides to go ahead are as follows -

1. Call #indyref2, i.e. announcement, inform Scottish Parliament, press release, etc.

2. Submit to vote by Scottish Parliament for ratification and submission to UK Government.
(It will be supported by Greens, giving a narrow majority).

3. Attempt to agree legality with UK and secure an Edinburgh Agreement Two. Go ahead with or without agreement.

4. Launch YesTwo campaign formally, naming a referendum ballot date in 2018

MY VIEW

As an SNP member and committed online activist, my view - offered in blog analyses since last October and  on Twitter - https://twitter.com/moridura – is that Nicola should commence the above sequence with a significant indicator of intent at SNP Spring Conference in March and a formal triggering of the sequence as soon as  UK Government triggers Article 50 in late March.

My arguments for doing so are contained in blogs and a very large number of tweets on the subject. I may restate and elaborate on them in later blogs, however, I want to develop at least some specifics in this blog.

SOME ASPECTS OF INDYREF2 CAMPAIGN

Some voices have been saying that Nicola should abandon SNP commitment to EU in the #indyref2 campaign after it is called – if it is called.

Despite the fact that the SNP effectively seems to have rowed back – and back again – from its 2016 manifesto commitment not to allow Scotland to be dragged out of EU against its will, and has been progressively diluting that commitment to instead settling for some kind of single market deal from a prime minister manifestly disinclined to offer Scotland anything that would signal its status as a nation and one not subject to the arbitrary whims of a sovereign Westminster, #indyref2 gives the SNP the opportunity to restate its commitment to EU and its intent to seek to remain in the EU after independence is secured.

But, given the current unease of some commentators in YES-Two and the existence of a significant bloc of YES voters who voted LEAVE in June 2016 - and a bloc of Leave voters in the former NO electorate - it’s probably not a good idea to do that.

But the First Minister doesn’t have to!

There is no need for EU to feature in #indyref2 campaign, other than as individual YES2 groups committed to it and individual views.

The SNP and the First Minister in the #indyref2 campaign should commit firmly  to a Scottish Parliamentary  election soon after independence day, followed by EU membership referendum if the new Government supports one.

Scottish Indy Leavers will then get their chance soon after independence to elect a Scottish government that will commit to a referendum on EU membership.

I would hope that the First Minister and her key strategic advisors are strongly influenced by the content of these two significant broadcast interviews yesterday on BBC Good Morning Scotland.

 

What I confidently hope for as the outcome of that fast  Holyrood election after independence would be a re-elected SNP Government - or a formal coalition with the Green Party.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Theresa May’s 12 EU/Brexit negotiating objectives – except 75% aren’t …

On Tuesday 17th January, Theresa May set out her long-awaited negotiating objectives for the Brexit negotiations that will be triggered when Article 50 is invoked.

These were received uncritically by the media and the political parties as negotiating objectives, even though they disagreed with some of them. In fact, nine of them are not negotiaitng objective at all, and three at most may be considered as such, although singularly ill-framed.

Given the fact that political commentators and politicians are almost always given to talking arrant nonsense about negotiation, that comes as no surprise. What does surprise - and frighten - is the fact that a British PM, with access to top intellects and expertise (although not in either her Cabinet and least of all in her Brexit team) could come up with such nonsense.

Negotiating objectives are the items/topics on which a negotiating party seeks agreement with another party or parties. The negotiating objectives from all parties on which agreement are reached ultimately constitute the Heads of Agreement, once a deal is reached. A full negotiating objective has a broad topic header - e.g. agree price, agree quantity, agree delivery aspects, agree cost, agree quality - and will contain target measures of achievement necesessary to satisfy them, expressed both quantitatively and qualitatively. The confidential strategic and tactical negotiating plan – the “hand you do not show” - will the contain entry and exit points, i.e. the best level for the deal and the lowest acceptable level at whihc agreement can be reached.

(The above is partial and simplified outline of a complex behavioural and strategic skill, and I cannot and won’t go into more detail in a blog.)

PM’s stated 12 negotiating objectives

1. Certainty wherever possible

Not a negotiating objective - a bland motherhood statement of the obvious in any negotiation.

2. Control of our own laws

Not a negotiating objective - an inevitable consequence of invoking Article 50 and exiting EU

3. Strengthening the UK

Not a negotiating objective - banal and obvious. No one plans to weaken themselves in any negotiation

4. Maintaining the common travel area with Ireland

Not a negotiating objective with EU but with Republic of Ireland.

5. Control of immigration

Not a negotiating objective with EU but simply a consequence of exiting EU, one that UK can exercise.

6. Rights for EU nationals in Britain and British nationals in EU

This is a negotiating objective: Brexit has put both groups at risk.

7. Enhancing rights for workers

Not a negotiating objective since UK forfeits EU rights and must decide if and how to replace by UK law. Brexit has put existing rights at risk. It could be an attempt to negotiate rights for UK worker in EU countries. Brexit and Article 50 eliminates these rights.

8. Free trade with European markets

Negotiate what with EU? What Brexit has forfeited? Negotiable only with non-EU countries.

9. New trade agreements with other countries

Not a negotiating objective with EU, but as stated, with other countries.

10.  A leading role in science and innovation

How do you negotiate a leading role in an EU you are exiting? Patent nonsense.

11. Co-operation on crime, terrorism and foreign affairs.

This an urgent negotiating objective since UK has placed them all jeopardy.

12. A phased approach, delivering a smooth and orderly Brexit

Another totally bland statement, applicable to any negotiation.

SUMMARY

PM is fielding a Brexit negotiating team - already with uncertain grasp of facts - with 12 “negotiating objectives", nine of which are not negotiating objectives at all, or are not with EU..

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Theresa May’s Brexit speech – and where the YES parties and movement are at now …

I won’t offer anything new on this at the moment because there’s little new to say. We are at exactly the point I said we’d come to in this October 2016 blog and what I think we must do is in the subsequent January 2017 blog.

This evening may bring a statement from SNP. We must wait …

October 2016 extract

BREXITS – HARD AND SOFT

As I said in my last blog, we are being taken out of EU against our will, regardless of any deal on  terms of exit, yet the SNP Manifesto for the 2016 Holyrood election specified that as an #indyref2 trigger.

Theresa May " .it will be the UK that will be negotiating with the EU our future relationship.."

Headline: "No 10 warned the devolved administrations not to “undermine” the UK Government’s Brexit strategy."

I ask “What ******* Brexit strategy?”

Can Scots endure much more progressive humiliation in the Brexit Talks? Will they? If they can, let's fold our tents and get awa' hame...

Theresa May is the Unionist's heroine -  and the woman Leave voters including Scottish Leave voters - and to me, incredibly, SNP Leave voters - gave more power to – power to drag UK to disaster and Scotland with it. Unless #indyref2 is called …

Are we just to continue to wait for Theresa's latest broadside on the dominance of UK?

FT yesterday "Britain must pursue a ‘hard Brexit’ to create a more open economy"

When does Theresa take Nicola into The Empire Room and astonish her with British power? (scene from stage and radio play All the Way to the Empire Room by TOM PAULIN)

The clawback of devolution and power from Scotland has effectively begun: we enter next stage - delay and progressive humiliation. Our willingness to cooperate is being thrown back in our face with reaffirmations of Union dominance over its Scottish province. We've been willing to listen, to talk,  to contribute positively. It's all been thrown back in our faces by Theresa May.

Canon Kenyon Wright at EICC 11th September 2014, one week before The Referendum: "it can be undermined at the whim of Westminster, at any time. Power devolved is power retained"

Iain Macwhirter nailed it in Wednesday’s HERALD. Some quotes from the eminently-quotable Iain, Scotland’s finest political journalist -

"Scotland’s Parliament is effectively diminished and made a “creature of Westminster

UK is a multinational state with devolution of legislative authority. You can’t behave as if UK were ..monolithic unit it was in 20th century

”There's an ugly mood in England over Brexit as lack of any plan becomes apparent and UK Gov resorts to ..lowest common denoimator of immigration.”

"I despair at this Brexit dialogue of the deaf…”

CODA

Nicola Sturgeon: “I won't allow Scotland to be driven over a hard Brexit cliff edge.”

Will Nicola return from the the Brexit Talks with the devolved Governments waving

“a piece of paper”?

or with a real breakthrough?

or to trigger #indyref2?

We must wait and see…


January 2017 blog

Tommy Sheppard’s Common Space piece, pre-Scottish Independence  Convention,  on energising independence movement - and my comment and views.  See link CommonSpace 

COMMENT

The independence movement certainly needs energising. In my perception - once I step outside of the indy press and online bubble - it's leaking energy by the day.

It may be that the only way to re-energise it is for SNP Govt/Greens to initiate the processes to call #indyref2, with the timing of the ballot and duration referendum after that at the discretion of SNP Govt/Greens, with ratification by the Holyrood Parliament.

While it would nice to have a short campaign, I doubt if that is possible because of legal hurdles and perhaps frontal challenges by the Westminster Government, and it is arguable that a campaign as long as that will allow us to get our core policies lined up with a core YES consensus, and that a campaign as long as that preceding the 2014 Referendum will provide all the energy and motivation needed for activists to really focus on shifting perceptions and poll.

I believe we have never been better placed to fight a successful independence campaign

- in UK Parliamentary and Holyrood terms

- with an experienced and battle- hardened YES

- with media (two newspapers)

- with a major looming issue and threat in Brexit

- and with an extreme right-wing and incompetent Tory Government caught up in desperate attempts to resource a chaotic negotiating strategy, and with wide European goodwill towards us.

As for polls, as in indyref1 - where we started from an infinitely lower base - it's our job to change them, and only a campaign after a starting gun has been fired - #indyref2 - and a named ballot date will do that.

Waiting for some illusory ideal time which will never exist is like waiting for Godot, and risks the fear of failure mood blunting the will to win. We are after all, an independence movement, and independence movements are not characterised by timidity or fear of failure. Let's do it!

Thursday, 12 January 2017

My comment on Tommy Sheppard’s piece pre-SIC on energising the independence movement

Tommy Sheppard’s Common Space piece, pre-Scottish Independence  Convention,  on energising independence movement - and my comment and views.  See link CommonSpace 

COMMENT

The independence movement certainly needs energising. In my perception - once I step outside of the indy press and online bubble - it's leaking energy by the day.

It may be that the only way to re-energise it is for SNP Govt/Greens to initiate the processes to call #indyref2, with the timing of the ballot and duration referendum after that at the discretion of SNP Govt/Greens, with ratification by the Holyrood Parliament.

While it would nice to have a short campaign, I doubt if that is possible because of legal hurdles and perhaps frontal challenges by the Westminster Government, and it is arguable that a campaign as long as that will allow us to get our core policies lined up with a core YES consensus, and that a campaign as long as that preceding the 2014 Referendum will provide all the energy and motivation needed for activists to really focus on shifting perceptions and poll.

I believe we have never been better placed to fight a successful independence campaign

- in UK Parliamentary and Holyrood terms

- with an experienced and battle- hardened YES

- with media (two newspapers)

- with a major looming issue and threat in Brexit

- and with an extreme right-wing and incompetent Tory Government caught up in desperate attempts to resource a chaotic negotiating strategy, and with wide European goodwill towards us.

As for polls, as in indyref1 - where we started from an infinitely lower base - it's our job to change them, and only a campaign after a starting gun has been fired - #indyref2 - and a named ballot date will do that.

Waiting for some illusory ideal time which will never exist is like waiting for Godot, and risks the fear of failure mood blunting the will to win. We are after all, an independence movement, and independence movements are not characterised by timidity or fear of failure. Let's do it!

Monday, 19 December 2016

A Dane’s view -Troels Just - of how Nicola might square some of her Brexit circles …

For several years now, my Danish friend Troels Just has given me the benefit of his perspective of European Union matters and Scotland’s relationship with the EU in a UK context., and I have found them invaluable.

Troels takes a keen interest in Scottish politics and Scotland’s pursuit of independence, and he responded to the following question posed online by someone interested in Nicola’s announcement about her Tuesday  20th December 2016 revelation of her Scottish – and UK – plan for Brexit which we all await eagerly. Troels has kindly given me permission to reproduce his reply in full.

Question

"Is it actually possible for Scotland to stay part of the UK and have different agreements with the EU on big issues like the single market and immigration than other countries in the UK? I’m all for Scottish independence but I’m curious - it just doesn’t seem feasible and I feel like Nicola knows this is just a step that has to be taken before independence - the actual end game - is pushed"

Troels replied as follows -

I am from and located in Denmark, I have followed politics in Scotland for at least seven years, and I think I can help you understand what theoretically could be done.

At the moment, devolution and things like a separate legal system domestically notwithstanding, the UK state itself is a unitary state, that is to say it is, formally, one undivided state as opposed to a federal state like Germany or Belgium (which I will come back to later).

Scotland is therefore not a legal entity in international law, i.e. it cannot sign legally binding treaties with other states or international organizations, as obligations and rights created by such treaties fall upon Westminster.

However, that can indeed be changed, by passing a law at Westminster that gives Scotland legal capacity internationally, and thus able to sign treaties. This is the case with Belgium's regions, they are legal entities internationally and can act independently of the federal government in certain areas within their competence.

http://diplomatie.belgium.be/en/treaties/conclusion_of_treaties.

Thus the first step is to give Scotland, what is called "legal personality" in international law. (Interestingly this was enacted for the EU as a whole in the Lisbon Treaty, thus the EU can sign treaties internationally.)

The second step would be to devolve all the relevant powers from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government that would be affected and necessary to operate within the single market. So for example, powers over immigration would be necessary for the Scottish Parliament to implement freedom of movement to Scotland while it was discontinued in England and Wales by virtue of the UK, as a whole, withdrawing from the EU and the single market (f that is indeed what happens).

Specifically in regard to immigration, there is precedent for this internationally: the Canadian province of Quebec has long had the powers to have its own immigration policy and system.

Other powers include public and private commercial law, financial services including banking regulations, intellectual property, consumer protection, telecommunications, industrial relations - I could go on and go, but essentially the whole nine yards of areas that the single market impacts on, which is a large part of Schedule 5 (Reserved matters) of the Scotland Act.

The combination of the ability to sign treaties and powers over all the aspects impacted on by the single market will give Scotland the ability to sign either the EFTA treaty (Just like Norway, as it has been mentioned a lot), which is a multi-lateral treaty, or a custom bi-lateral treaty like Switzerland has.

This would take Scotland very close to independence because of the vast powers that would have to be devolved. To work on this point a bit more, the reason these need to be devolved is that, say the EU passes a law that does X in regard to roaming charges on mobile phone calls and Westminster passes a law that does Y in that same area, then Scotland needs to be able to implement the EU law separately from Westminster.

As I said, this would be very close to independence, but powers over foreign affairs, defence, currency etc. and crucially, constitutional matters and full sovereignty would presumably remain in Westminster's hands.

The final one is more crucial than it gives off, because what it means is that Scotland still would not be able to legally declare independence on its own, nor could the Scottish Parliament alter its own powers vis-a-vis Westminster, and thus Scotland would still be a part of the UK, but at the same time:

1. a legal entity in international law

2. a member of the single market

3. self-governing in the highest sense, short of full independence.

I hope this clarified what you asked.

Friday, 28 October 2016

The People and constitutional and political revolutions – and Scotland’s independence.

I’m a democrat. I believe in the ballot box as the prime mechanism for delivering political change. I don’t believe in violence or violent revolution as a mechanism, except as the very last resort, nor could any rational person with any shred of humanity in the light of the appalling price of change effected by violent revolution, especially in the 20th and 21st centuries, whatever the ultimate benefit. But there are revolutions and revolution – not all revolutions are violent, and some have been achieved with minimum violence and with speedy returns to democracy.

I have a deeply-rooted presumption against violence as a mechanism for change, but I do believe intransigent regimes and political systems sometimes have to be challenged in ways that are not violent, but which may provoke an extreme response. If I didn’t believe that, I would be denying, for example the necessity and validity of the independence struggle in the Indian sub-continent in the first half of the 20th century and the American Civil Rights Movement, notably in the 1960s.

If I rejected violence outright in extreme cases, I would deny the French Revolution, the American War of Independence, the struggle for democracy and freedom in South Africa under Mandela and many other violent independence upheavals. In other areas of violent struggle, I am conflicted, and cannot reconcile my abhorrence of violence in politics – or as a means of settling any conflict – with the egregious and inhumane injustices that led to its use. I won’t cite the obvious ones in our own time or the conflicts raging at this very moment across our world.

Scotland’s situation is not - in my view - of that nature, and the scale of the injustices inflicted on it by the Union, painful and unjustifiable as they are for sectors of the Scottish population and individuals (although arguably they were in the late 19th and early 20th centuries) are not of that magnitude and inhumanity. They have been remedial by the processes of democracy, and the failure has, at least in part, been the failure of large numbers of Scots to recognise egregious injustices and inequalities, and to use the tools of democracy to effect the remedies.

This short blog is a kind of preamble, a testament of my basic beliefs about constitutional change, set out as a marker against what I may say over the next few days, and, who knows, weeks and months on the Brexit negotiations, the Scottish Government’s strategy, the mood of YES and #indyref2.