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The truth can hurt but it also sets us free!

Thanks to Chris Hanlon for his contribution, Patience. He makes some salient points on progress and quotes the American motivational speaker Tony Robbins as inspiration for his thoughts on where we are now in Scotland.

“People often overestimate how much they can get done in a year and underestimate what they can get done in ten…”

On ViveEcosse we like to tease out the threads of arguments to ensure we have considered all the factors so in that vein, this is my reply to Chris.

Patience is indeed a virtue

…but before we assume we’re ‘on the right track this time’ and settle back to be ‘patient’ as we await the outcome, we have to ask ourselves, “are we sure what we’re waiting for will actually work?”

The Secret to Success

Tony Robbins also says of the secret to success:

“The ultimate formula for how to be successful consists of several key principles: know your desired outcome, know what inspires you, take massive action, notice your results and adapt your approach.”

Success scores on the doors?

Can I honestly say that anything I’ve personally witnessed from SNP NEC or from outside, from the SNP leadership in the past 8 years, coupled with the bizarre reaction of the FM post Supreme Court announcement of the decision on Wednesday, demonstrates ANY of these principles in ANY way?

Whether the will is (or was ever) there or not, is certainly debatable but as an analyst I just can’t ignore the glaring evidence that it genuinely looks like they don’t know HOW to deliver independence.

Party Hats off

I think Chris and others who have invested greatly in the belief that their team has all the answers will see the path clearer when they stop viewing independence with a SNP ‘stronger for Scotland 🧢’ obscuring their vision (other party hats also apply).

SNP ‘special conference’ announced for January 2023 is a clear delaying tactic. Given only the UK Tory Government have the date of the next General Election in their gift, delaying is, at best, a naive option for a party with so many promises to deliver on and now under the glare of a spotlight they’ve so far not experienced.

Transparency, democracy and really listening or procrastination then reactive panic?

Urgently embracing transparency is Scot Gov’s best option but it’s not been their Modus Operandi thus far.

We already know that SNP don’t listen to members at conference, whether with their ethereal complains processes or otherwise. They’ve critically just had a face-to-face conference (days before Supreme Court case was heard) where they talked about lots of things but fastidiously avoided what they now need a ‘special conference’ for.

It reminds me of how shiny my bathtub suddenly was when my MSc thesis deadline loomed….

Why was the SNP Annual conference, after FM announced a referendum date for 19th Oct 2023, not focussed on independence and her plan for the Supreme Court reference’s potential outcomes presented, along with all the details of the contingency ‘plebiscite’?

Please don’t tell me, “it’s a secret plan that we can’t let the unionists get wind of…’ I humbly submit that all avenues and potential (or at least the likely) outcomes should have been teased out democratically in advance of the Supreme Court decision *if* her plan had any consideration for the management of risk, it’s mitigation and contingency planning. You can bet your life the British Establishment have gamed all scenarios so let’s get serious.

They either knew and did no contingency planning or were caught unaware – neither is good enough!

If the Supreme Court outcome was indeed anticipated (as it was by those with even a passing interest) then why are Scot Gov not pivoting straight to their considered contingency planned next steps?

If, as we’ve evidenced in the immediate aftermath, all next steps start and end at the SNP party then there is indeed a power vacuum in Scotland for independence.

You just can’t coherently make the argument that you’ve been elected to run the Scottish Government while at the same time claiming independence is an SNP Party matter.

Next steps if they are serious about independence

Regardless of outcomes of the Supreme Court decisions, the next substantive steps were evidently, largely the same, as discussed in Decisions, decisions but then what.

I’d have advised (as others have) of demonstrating proactive planning, and control of the situation by pre-emptively calling a Constitutional Convention (regardless of SC Ruling) and delivering the again promised Citizens Assemble, to engage the public, tease out opinion and identify pinch points before shaping arguments to take to wider electorate.

If they didn’t anticipate the outcome and gambled all on a win, then the current FM has shown she isn’t ‘safe’ but reckless.

The previous FM, Alex Salmond is known as a gambler but at least gamblers consider the odds and scrutinise best outcomes before determining their position. In politics you must ultimately leave the result to electoral fate but only once you’re done your best to stack the odds in your favour.

If they don’t know HOW tell us now and get help!

I refer back to my previous conclusion that the current party machine operatives just don’t know HOW to win this. The party machine absolutely know how to win success for SNP at elections, many have witnessed their well oiled electoral machine.

We mustn’t ignore that the machine has been operating for 8 years on a smooth surface and fuelled by 50% of the electorate’s independence desire, so it’s a false definition of SNP party success.

If this indy fuel is removed or more attractive vehicles turn up at ‘the pumps’ they are then left to make a real case and real arguments on competence etc., then their dominance is not so assured.

This may explain the effort that’s gone onto ‘discrediting other vehicles and their drivers’.

If they have to fuel a nation’s voters, to seek independence without having established the skills of actual convincing then they are in real trouble. 8 years of ‘yellow rosettes’ off the back of ‘Indy mandate’ has made them forget how to really fight for a win.

(Cough) Scottish Labour circa 2015…

Are they doing it deliberatly?

Then there’s the opposition, or lack there of, which has given a false sense of SNP dominance. 

Has a largely weakening opposition at Holyrood been part of the British Establishment game plan? Well it’s what I’d do if I was on that side of the chessboard.

The best way to weaken your opposition is to lower the bar across the board, lull them into a false sense of security where they become complacent in power and lose the skill and practice to fight for success.

SNP have systematically replaced pesky critical thinkers with party nodders, which weakens their ability to react when the opposition inevitably attacks on a different flank.

Why the brain drain from politics?

Given the abundance of talent in Scotland I don’t think anyone can argue the case that we now have the cream of Scotland’s talent in elected office, at any level!

We laughed in incredulity when Michael Gove said in 2016 Brexit campaign that “people were fed up with experts”. Sadly it looks like SNP wrote this down as an instruction! 

Raise the talent bar, it’s urgent!

If our communities, Scotland and the world ever needed expert decision makers in positions of power, it’s now!

It would be inaccurate to say we don’t have some great people in elected roles and we have the electorate to thank for that, as being a critical thinker does not easily navigate you through the internal party vetting control gate!

Those experts we do have in elected roles, Joanna Cherry KC is the most evident, largely only remain in politics through personal and professional determination to see through the job they started and from the support, value and respect of local members and constituents.

Ronaldo cutting half time oranges while the boot boy takes the penalty?

A casual observer would expect to see the SNP’s eminent KC /MP leading leading the judicial case for her party but that’s hard to do from the back benches. Her acknowledged talent has however been snapped up by U.K. Parliament in her esteemed appointment as Chair of Joint Committee on Human Rights.

What does this say about how important the SNP now see tangible skills, expertise, talent and record of deliver, as desirable qualities for their candidates? What does their complaints process debacle say about how you’ll be treated if you do become a candidate?

The SNP leadership even failed to support Joanna Cherry KC through criminal threats from their own party member (at time of offence). The experience of her treatment at the NEC meeting that came just after the criminal threats will live with me…

Dual rules on dual mandates

It’s fairly widely known that the weird ‘dual mandate’ fleeting obsession of SNP NEC to build walls and not bridges for their own MPs becoming MSPs in 2021, precluded Joanna Cherry and others from being candidates for the 2021 Scottish Parliament. Joanna Cherry had previously expressed a desire to stand for election at Holyrood and it was rumoured others were also keen on bringing their political experience back to Scotland for final push to independence.

As an MP, who had increased her majority Joanna Cherry was a popular choice with her local constituency party members yet she suddenly faced a difficult decision after an odd ruling, not from her party conference but from the party’s NEC, who only have authority between conferences to act on behalf of members. Why had this not been brought to conference previously if it was so important. dual mandates had never been a problem at other elections.

Given SNP were telling the electorate they were taking the democratic fight for Scotland’s constitutional future, you would have thought any new emergency rule on candidate selection would be to increase choice and the raise calibre of candidate selections to appeal most to constituents. Strangely it did the opposite, by deigning that a sitting SNP MP must resign their seat over a month before the opportunity to secure an SNP MSP seat!

Now from any angle, that’s just bonkers! From a party strategy viewpoint it is creating your own voluntary roulette but more important are the impacts for constituents of potentially being left without an MP and support team during the uncertainty of a global pandemic. The prospect of risking your staff team job security at such a time would also be at huge consideration!

I raised a question at SNP NEC in 2021 on behalf of Mid Scotland and Fife delegates, who wondered whether this ‘dual mandate’ rule also applied to sitting councillors, with so of them many standing for the Holyrood elections, many of them on NEC. If I recall correctly, someone was to get back to me…

NEC musical chairs– when the ‘music’ stops you lose your seat!

Less widely known, even within SNP as my own branch exec at the time asked me for evidence when I raised it, is the SNP’s 2019 NEC seeking and voting, by over 50%, to deselect Joanna Cherry from sitting as an SNP MP candidate in GE19.

When I looked into the timings of this, Joanna Cherry, was on the NEC herself at the time but was occupied personally beating the UK Gov in the Supreme Court while this ‘deselection’ vote was happening at her party’s NEC without her in attendance!

That the SNP subsequently took her Prorogation win in the Supreme Court as their own victory truly is irony overload 🤯

Trust the Voters

Joanna Cherry wasn’t deselected in 2019 but it’s sadly not down to rational thinking by the majority of her party’s NEC but by the fact those who sought to deselect her didn’t understand their own standing orders on deselection! They didn’t get the 2/3 vote needed as assumed only a simple 1/2 majority was needed. Joanna Cherry went on to retain her MP seat in 2019 with a 12% increase in vote share from 2017.

Credibility Rules!

I’m not a fan of personality politics, it has caused much of the distraction that has stopped the independence movement from actually moving but do any independence supporters really think the SNP is ‘stronger for Scotland’ without Joanna Cherry KC on their team?

We need credibility that we can deliver and integrity that we will, to gain the trust of the people of Scotland to achieve independence and then to crucially negotiate our best enablers for success when we do.

Joanna Cherry KC is literally the only SNP team player who has EVER ‘scored’ against U.K. Gov yet SNP have their top competent striker as far off the pitch as they can, without actually removing her from the team altogether or hard tackling her off the pitch.

We are left to watch slack-jawed as those on SNP ‘A team’ /front bench trip over their own feet while postulating on what they’d do if only the opposition would give them the ball! 

Newsflash, it’s their job to strategise a winning game plan and deliver Scotland’s victory, not to act as pundits on events!

Good News!

The very good news from Wednesday is that the Supreme Court have shown us a way forward! By showing the facts of the law and the opinion of the justices we now know what can create the impact of overcoming the Sovereignty of the UK parliament, who currently hold the keys that are stopping the people of Scotland asking the ‘banned binary question’ in its ‘gold standard’ established democratic mechanism of a referendum.

There is MUCH work to do here so distractions really won’t help…

Not Good News…

However, this good news is clouded by the FM making her own tone deaf  ‘David Cameron 19th Sep 2014, EVEL’ moment, by making the announcement to Scotland from an SNP podium!

The judgement from the UK Supreme Court on the Scot Gov’s own Lord Advocate’s reference, made on our behalf, should have been presented to Scotland as our FM, not under party colours as the SNP leader.

The Lord Advocate won the case that her reference should be taken and Lord Reed also delivered the court’s judgement that the case had been made that the act of holding an advisory referendum was indeed legal, it was the political impact where the case fell. It is this that shows us the way through and it is, as we always knew, a political path.

Given it was the SNP’s own case where victory slipped and opinion on ‘colonisation’ was given in response to the question they asked on their submission to the Supreme Court, again begs the question of “why ask it?” To then pontificate in the hyperbole the FM used on a wheel-out the SNP ‘Stronger for Scotland’ podium was unfathomable, except perhaps in irony?

Nothing if not predictable

FM’s first reaction, in announcing what our next steps are have been determined by something that she personally has the best chance of controlling: a reactionary SNP conference, attended by a paying subset of her own party members.

‘Our future’ is doing some heavy lifting there, given you have to pay £ to be a member of SNP to even get through gate 1 of having any chance to have any say as to the next steps in the plan for Scotland…

This shows with clarity that having someone who doesn’t drive, with no road awareness of others, probably isn’t the wisest personal to have in the driving seat of Scotland’s independence.

It was all there if we’d only looked…

Robin McAlpine looks back this week at what he, as someone who’s dedicated the last 10 years to creating a tangible case and vision for a better Scotland (which he and others conclude can only be delivered through the empowerment of self determination) has observed, on the actions of those who have been politically empowered to deliver it.

The truth might hurt at times but ultimately it’s what sets us free…

http://robinmcalpine.org/when-lost-stop-following-what-led-you-here/

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Time for Independence, Glasgow – Allison Graham speech

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Decisions, decisions but then what?

The Supreme Court will announce their, likely unanimous, judgement imminently this morning and Wednesday 23rd of November will go down in history as an event in the course of the Scottish Independence journey.

Other event dates, from the Scottish devolution referendum on 11th September 1997 through Independence referendum on September 18th 2014 to Brexit referendum on 23rd June 2016are also part of our history but only time will determine each’s significance on HOW they influence the next steps and the outcomes that result.

We, the people of Scotland have a choice (maybe not yet at a ballot box again) but a choice none the less. Do we let potentially significant events become a footnote of our history or do we ensure that they are significant by making them as a catalyst to energise the sleeping giant of Scotland’s people’s collective power?

Whether you are convinced either way on Scotland’s constitutional future or as yet unsure, this is a moment when your voice matters, you may not easily get another opportunity to shape Scotland’s future.

Those who don’t want to discuss politics or engage in the future direction at the ballot box or between times, will still be consumers of the outcomes. We’ve been CONvinced by a largely insular politico bubble that it’s all too complicated or sophisticated for us mere mortals and they ‘have it covered’.

Well the evidence all around us suggests otherwise and the shiny veneer is wearing thin when people are faced by political failure at every turn. There is not less money, it’s just being skewed to those who need more the least, like Smaug luxuriating on his baubles.

So how should Scotland respond to this event? The judgement from SC could have a counter intuitive effect ironically. Let’s look at them in turn.

1.Is that it?

The Supreme Court do not take the Lord Advocate’s reference and say nothing on the substantive reference.

Result = UK Government win the argument made by James Eadie KC

Reason = draft Bill likely to be found premature (see Keatings)

Probability = low (LA made good points to counter James Eadie, draft bill by Scot Gov is not comparable to no bill in Keatings case). Probability of Bill being passed and coming back to SC via lower courts for judgement. The Supreme Court will find not making any opinion inadvertently drags them into a political arena they will want to steer clear of and stick to legal interpretation of Scotland Act and how it related to this reference re powers to hold an advisory referendum.

2. O bit er, since you asked nicely…

The Supreme Court do not take the Lord Advocate’s reference but express opinion on substantive reference, known as obiter dicta (opinion in court or written judgement that is not essential to the decision thus not legally binding as a precedent).

Result = UK Government win the battle of the argument made by James Eadie KC but the depending on content of obiter dicta they may not ‘win the war’ as the case is again likely to return to SC and a positive opinion on the LA’s reference will encourage a swift move by politicians to pass of an Indy Ref bill through Scots Parliament and a negative opinion may be the tipping point in national opinion for even those who are quite comfortable with devolution but are appalled at the thought of Scotland having a ‘locked door’ with no access to the key.

Reason = draft Bill likely to be found premature (see Keatings) but the Supreme Court will feel this needs at least an opinion expressed as it anticipates a return of a future bill to SC.

Probability = high, more likely than the first outcome and would explain the swift judgement (just over a month) when it was not expected until December 22 or even January 23.

3. Time for Plan B (or is it C?)

The Supreme Court does take the Lord Advocate’s reference and concludes that Scottish Parliament does NOT have the powers under the devolved settlement codified in the Scotland Act to hold an advisory referendum so see how the people of Scotland want to be governed. 

Result = UK Government win the battle they didn’t really take part in as the vast bulk of the oral arguement and written submission was focussed on the argument that the La’s reference was premature and should not be taken.

Reason =  There will be some wording to the effect that it is out-with the competency of Scottish Parliament’s competency gives resultant outcomes relate to reserved matter or some such. I will be intrigued to read the full judgement if this is the outcome as I thought the LA made a strong written submission and the oral submission although it didn’t set the heather on fire with its delivery. It did cover the core arguments, many un-rebuked by opposing council so should stand. Our favourite on ViveEcosse is the argument that questions the existence of the union (therefore by extension its Supreme Court giving this judgement).

Probability = the expected one if reference is taken but this optimist is going for medium

4. Eek, we’ve a referendum to win!

The Supreme Court does take the Lord Advocate’s reference and concludes that Scottish Parliament DOES have the powers under the devolved settlement codified in the Scotland Act to hold an advisory referendum so see how the people of Scotland want to be governed, as para 18 in Smith Commission states is our right.

Result = Lord Advocate confirms she can determine Scot Gov’s draft Indy Ref Bill as competent and there is nothing to stop this Bill being urgently introduced and passed through an independence supporting majority of MSPs while triggering an official campaign and energising the grassroots to move to formal campaign footing.

Reason = Given there is already a Referendums (Scotland) Bill 2016 which was uncontested and allows Scottish Parliament to hold referenda on any matters devolved, the case comes down to the subject of the referendum and whether the ‘opinion poll’ alone on independence brings it out-with devolved competency for Holyrood.

Many have argued “what’s the point in a glorified opinion poll?” while at the same time putting an expectation on International courts to uphold Scottish democracy. The elephant in the room is that it’s the most likely legal argument to get over the ‘reserved matters’ barrier but crucially, Scotland must first demonstrate the opinion of our people in a recognisable way to assist other governments to assist us. SNP, Greens, Alba and whoever else is pro indy, must have a singular clear, democratic offering if an advisory referendum is to be used as a next step.

Probability = the shock verdict but this optimist is going for medium

So then what?

Regardless of decision of Supreme Court, the next steps are largely the same and within Scotland’s gift!

Next Step: National Conversation announced to be kicked of by FM announcing a Constitutional Convention of elected, civic Scotland, campaign groups and thinks tanks who bring policy from the work of grassroots groups – on both sides of the constitutional debate.

Citizens’ Assembly to harness the momentum of result and engage the people through our representative voice.

Clear next democratic steps dependent on decision:

New draft Indy Ref bill brought by MSP and anticipating legal challenge having removed ‘premature’ barrier

Election where SNP, Greens and Alba must have a singular election offering if a plebiscite is to be used as a next step, essentially using a Scottish franchise election. 

New Draft Referendum Bill taken to Scots Parliament as a matter of urgency.

Th key message from today must be:

Scotland’s future is OURS to write!

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Final Act of UK Pantomime: A view from the peanut gallery

If like so many across our communities you’re waking up to the reality that in our clean energy rich Scotland, abundant with high quality produce and human talent we are approaching winter 2022/23 with folk trying to stop our fellow citizens from freezing and starving, then none of this blog will be news.

If you haven’t yet seen with any clarity, the direction of travel Scotland is being hurled down, as a passenger on the UK Brexit Bus 🇬🇧 controlled remotely by sociopaths like a red, white and blue remake of Speed, then hold onto your seat. This isn’t a drill.

Sadly, it’s not mere ‘lefty hyperbole’, it’s the dystopian reality of a neoliberal economy in meltdown from flame throwing disaster capitalists at an arsonist’s think tank conference, even Telegraph readers can’t avoid the flames 🔥

The visual image of ‘trickle down economics’ kinda fits with laws of nature as water flows downstream. This helps as a convincer as it sounds plausible and has for years convinced some in Scotland and many in the larger population of our neighbour that ‘business knows best’, ‘keep the markets happy and all will be well’ and ‘if GDP is growing then my life must be better’, right?

Un-interfered with, nature doesn’t have to deal with the human greed variable however. Greed is an agent of erosion to divert the natural flow of materials. It starts with the soft targets but unhindered, will eventually collapse the whole system in an attempt to keep the riches flowing back up stream and into plunge pools deep with treasure. Waterfall economics would be a more accurate description!

Scotland’s ‘left of centre’ elected voice is left to either fit in or attempt to stand out, with hand wringing or fist thumping speeches but ultimately,

”Scotland will not” always turns out to be ’Scotland are’…

In the latest plot twist in the perverse reality show that is U.K. politics, we’ve got ‘Britain’s Nae Talent’ PM Truss with her Bone Idle caBINet who can’t even be bothered to pretend to know their brief for the cameras as they vie for Ultimate Nihilistic Ninja champion by throwing as many obstacles as possible at ordinary folk, continually upping the challenges for them to survive!

The Boaty McBoatface winner of the latest Tory leadership spin the bottle contest, took to the stage to the tune of a song telling her to ‘pack her bags’ – the butt of a joke only she seems not to get.

An animatronic Truss looked pleased to have ticked ✅ all the ‘show dominance’ boxes in a speech the writers I’m sure were grateful was energised by two Greenpeace protestors.

‘Rebellious Scots to Crush’ seems to have been rebranded to “Separatists, back in yer box and await my instructions to solve the energy crisis we’re imposing on you while I find ways to foist my nuclear and fracking ‘solutions’ onto your land of embarrassing energy riches” – or as they like to call Scotland’s resources, ‘banker’s bonuses’. I just don’t get the lack of gratitude?

You’ll no be needing Ready Brek to glow if Technetium ☢️ Truss gets her way across these islands!

So, in a whirlwind few weeks, Truss Tornado hit landfall and OZ will never, ever be the same again!

House of the Norfolk broad landed with a thump squashing the Wicked Twonk of Uxbridge and South Ruislip but before (the inevitable) Tory party purvey had been ordered, or she had a chance to steam strip the headache inducing wallpaper from No10: the Queen died.

This perfect opportunity to establish herself as a statesperson on the global stage saw her scuttle awkwardly across the country after the new King like Julie Walter’s in ‘The Waitress’ while her ‘elite’ team apparently spent the mourning period writing scripts for a reboot of The Hunger Games.

Political business resumed and the new PM proclaimed ‘no ifs, no buts, well….maybe’ as she sought to tackle UK’s lack of growth by top rate tax cuts, to ensure more of the now uncapped banker’s bonus’s can be kept by those plucky hedge fund managers!

Reintroduced fois gras won’t pay for itself so a firm doubling down on real time cuts to welfare and worker’s pay and conditions should help the ’trickle’ flow in the right direction. The Emerald City won’t expand its shining glory by letting those pesky Munchkins get their mitts near the economy’s jewels!

While practicing clicking her heels in her new ruby slippers to M People’s ‘Moving On Up’ she tripped over her Chancellor reading the economic forecast of his ‘mini budget’ upside down and together they tumbled across the floor, wrenching down the big velvet curtain of neoliberal illusion and exposing the GREAT and POWERFUL UK WIZARDS to the world as just auld men in suits fiddling with knobs and puffing out hot air via various media channels and think tanks.

‘Strong and Stable’ once proclaimed by true blue Conservatives has been retired to a meme and even the most trusting Tory voter would surely be quietly checking on any bath their government was entrusted to run?

So, the façade has fallen and the ruse is finally up. The basement layer of talent deep beneath the once well scrapped barrel of Tory talent has been exposed for all to see! The sham of a post Brexit UK that trades on illusionary memories of a rose-tinted past it has methodically destroyed since Thatcher looks kinda pale and blotchy in the glare of daylight…

Those of us scratching our heads at the absurdity of this national ‘long con’ working on so many for so long (they even have CON in their name) must stay focussed on what comes next as it’s most certainly not a given!

So, the real question for Scotland now is, why are we still watching this UK pantomime from the peanut gallery? Scotland as a population don’t need convincing not to vote for Tory governments: we haven’t since 1955.

So, Scotland’s REAL energy crisis is whether the people of Scotland can create and sustain the energy required for REAL change and whether our own political classes can deliver the catalyst to speed up the reaction! 

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Festival of Activism: On a mission without permission

What is activism? 

the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change.

Definition of Permission

the action of officially allowing someone to do a particular thing; consent or authorization.

If activism means working to bring about change in the established way of doing (or not doing) things then asking for consent or permission from those in power (the establishment) seems counterintuitive.

There is of course a broad spectrum of activism techniques to agitate for change, from collective demonstration of opinion to civil disobedience but at the heart of any activism is a passion to work to enable a desired change to outcomes.

At last weekend’s Doune The Rabbit Hole music festival, the Common Weal team had the pleasure of facilitating an array of passionate speakers on a diverse range of fascinating topics at the Douniversity stage.

Obi getting ready to get active at Douniversity and be heard 😜

Each speaker brought a unique perspective to their talk but all shared a common thread: a motivation for positive action that was mot stopped by a permission barrier to begin their mission for change.

A weekend immersed with people sharing their stories, passion and proactive attitudes, against a backdrop of a truly chilled, family music festival alongside our brilliant Common Weal team and volunteers was a real life enforcing experience.

It was a real jolt of energy to witness what is possible when you find your tribe and your groove, to bring clarity to focussing on your common goal.

It suddenly seems obvious stop seeking permission to start and just get on, do stuff and demonstrate value!

Each of the speakers, over three days of TEDX style talks, educated, entertained and informed their audiences. There were great conversations over churros & coffee (from our neighbouring stall) and lots of laughs at the Common Weal stall, set against ever present background tunes from every genre on the music stages, catering to every taste, as the festive vibe wafted across the grassy fields of West Stirlingshire. 

Now obviously we, as citizens, have a responsibility to seek permission from authority to do certain things to keep ourselves and others safe, healthy, society functioning etc., but those in authority do have a responsibility too. 

Authority must support societal needs and adapt to change where it is required or desired. There’s a balance of course of rights and protections but if a case is well made as to the benefits of a proposed change then there is an obligation of authority to engage, understand and objectively assess any proposed change where a strong thoughtful case is made. 

I was blown away by the speakers I listened to at Douniversity, for the degree of work and effort behind their passionate communication to the audiences on their ideas, actions and organisations. They were all enthusiastic to ‘sell’ their vision to a tent full of strangers as they had deep knowledge and passion of their talk’s topic.

The common thread amongst them all was that they had not been dissuaded by barriers of ‘permission’ to begin , they had found ways to progress with their focus firmly on their goal to ensure delivery of the outcomes they seek. 

Whether for healthier, safer buildings, homes and communities, sustainable growth and wellbeing, just treatment and fair rent for tenants or fundamental changes to how our society values and achieves wellbeing and happiness beyond consumerism, each had a passion that melted away the permission barriers! 

The power of demonstrating a vision takes words from a page and shows even the most cynical what can be done. Once you clear the first hurdle of disbelief you unlock a confidence that can be nurtured and built upon. It brings the exhilaration of possibilities from a self confidence that we really are only limited by our own imagination, vision and ambition: that’s true empowerment! 

My own wee talk on the Friday evening was about Active Communities. That’s my area of passion because I see the power in networks and collective action. When folk who share a passion for change can pull their knowledge, experience and vision to achieve something they can feel proud to be a part of, it changes them and lifts their heads, their confidence and their ambition.

Monster Radish Club – Community Growing Garden

The sharing of failures and successes reinforces the learning journey is every bit as important as the destination you seek to reach your goal. The camaraderie of your community network supports you on low days as you support others on theirs.

Friendships emerge from the most unlikely or corners and that’s joyous when you ‘find your tribe’!

Scotland is not just a stunningly beautiful, resources rich land mass, it is a network of communities, whether geographic, academic, sport, recreational, religious, political or other shared interests.

My political passion is for Scotland’s people across every community in our land, to have the self confidence in ourself that others across the globe have in us.

Once this collective confidence reaches a tipping point, where feudal permission seeking melts away, then independence is inevitable.

As, Victor Hugo said, “All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come.”

Politicians in London, Edinburgh and everywhere in between must then get onboard with the real change that is happening BY the people across these islands. Politicians serve at the pleasure of their electorate so must deliver what the people demand, if they are to command respect and succeed in being (re)elected. 

Scotland is indeed a globally renowned picturesque land but her true essence of wonder is in our people. Each person has something to contribute as an individual but that contribution becomes powerful when harnessed in our communities.

These communities all bring value to our collective as a nation. If we can draw that confidence of achievement together with an ambitious vision of what a new Scotland could be then the sky is the limit!

A nation of confident, active communities inspired to unlock the potential of self determination, when all decisions are made IN Scotland, FOR Scotland, BY Scotland then who would bet against us!

My advice, to become a valued part of creating an ambitious, inspiring new Scotland is to first throw off the ingrained feudal mindset. When we no long seek permission from our ’heros’ and ‘betters’ to instruct us to do stuff for them and instead, act and work WITH not FOR others. we empower ourselves and create our communities!

So,

  • Find your tribe
  • Get active (in whatever way you can)
  • Build self confidence and collective confidence 
  • Believe YOU can and believe WE can 

Allow your beliefs to shape your thoughts and create a vision of what’s possible.

Let your thoughts form your words to communicate with others and lead to positive actions you can take to demonstrate your vision.

Commit to these positive actions to build good habits to expand the impact of your actions and you’ve established your values that you can  connect with to build a community of common purpose.

Then YOU will have set your destiny!

Our collective destiny is Scotland’s future and that make it all of our responsibility!

The very first step to self determination is for us to decide we can and we should make our own decisions. Seems logical right? So what are we waiting for Scotland, let’s get connected!

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Change is happening

Allison Graham at Bannockburn – June 2022 (Footage from IndependenceLive)

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Your Move London♟

This week the First Minister of Scotland announced to the Scottish Parliament that Scotland would have an advisory referendum on independence on October 19th 2023. There would be a few routes that this could take, let’s use letters to label then.

A  S30 from UK Gov to mirror precedence of 2014 Indy Ref with the Edinburgh Agreement 2012
B  Referendum Bill from Scottish Parliament
C  Plebiscite Westminster election at   next General Election

The details in the announcement were, I’d assume, deliberately vague and most certainly caught the opposition parties and media unprepared.

Pronouncements on Plan B were made mainly on the sequence of events with Lord Advocate proactively seeking a ruling from UK Supreme Court on the competency of Scottish Parliament to legislate, being widely reported as a ’curve ball’. This led naturally to our engaged independence movement’s questions and scrutiny. We can speculate as to the pros and cons and rationale, given our experience of following Martin Keatings, Forward As One, Peoples Section 30 case decision and we absolutely should. Details on Plan C even seemed to create confusion between FM and DFM!

However, regardless of where we sit on the cynicism scale with the, now tiny,  inner circle of SNP, you have to recognise Tuesday’s announcement as a catalyst for renewed action and enthusiasm in an otherwise stagnant political movement for real change. Progress has been glacial from a political body distracted by policy that seems determined to divide, not coalesce Scotland as required on a plan for safe change to the betterment for all. The people have stayed committed to independence as the key to real change so we need those we elect to deliver to keep us ‘in the loop’ on progress.

If the bold announcement of a longed for date does nothing else, it puts Scottish independence back on the news cycle and that’s the national conversation we need. In no small part thanks to our unionist politicians and UK MSM who are shrieking from the rooftops that,

“Scotland can’t!”

”Scottish Parliament have no powers to!”

”How dare the Scottish Government speak for the people of Scotland!”

There’s a veritable choice for Scottish Independence Campaigner of the month, and none of them actually want independence!

Those of us who have more than a cursory interest in Scotland’s constitutional future are enjoying the political popcorn created by unionists this week while we scrutinise the actual announcement from the FM.

Now it may be the Greens influence rubbing off but there does seem to be more than a little, ’reuse, recycle ♻️ ’ going on as many of us have seen all these ideas before, just not from the FM but that’s for another blog!

So, what do we know for sure and where are the gaps?

Well we know fundamentally that Scotland having an independence referendum agreed by U.K. government is legally and constitutionally possible as we’ve done it before in 2014.

We also know that an agreement signed by both governments to facilitate the smooth running of this democratic process is possible as we have the Edinburgh Agreement 2012 as proof and precedent.

We also know that 8 years have almost passed since Scotland’s people were asked on 18th September 2014, “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

We know that much has changed in this timeframe, much of it material change, even to the constitutional position of the UK that Scotland chose as status quo option in 2014. This illusionary ’status quo’ of Westminster along with our devolution settlement has failed to protect Scotland from Brexit, hostile immigration policy, brutal Tory austerity that Scotland has never voted for is failing yet again, with abundant renewable energy, to utilise our precious natural resources for the common weal of our people.

We know that without any other written definition in UK or Scots Law, that a political generation is defined in Good Friday Agreement 1998 as 7 years, co-signed by UK, Ireland and USA. If UK is a union of equals, why would Scotland not have the same time definition as NI to determine our constitutional future?

In reinforcement, we know that the post Indy Ref, Smith Commission, Nov 2014, in paragraph 18, leaves subsequent democratic decisions on Scotland’s constitutional future, to the people.

Para.18 “It is agreed that nothing in this report prevents Scotland becoming an independent country in the future if the people of Scotland so choose.”

The most recent jigsaw 🧩 piece is the democratic mandate given by the people of Scotland when they elected an independence majority into Scottish Government in May 2021. The SNP were elected by majority of 62/73 in the constituency vote and combined with 2 list seats and greens 8 list seats, formed an independence majority of 72/129. The list votes were just over 50% to pro independence parties.

Given all the unquestionable positions on the board, what moves can UK Government make to beat this democratic checkmate while under international scrutiny? As UK feel their way to find their place in their post Brexit world, with only bravado and trading on historic reputations for ‘Mother of Parliaments’ can the UK really afford to have their undemocracy for Scotland questioned? How will that play with potential trade partners, even those without a large Scottish Diaspora? 

With all the media and political commentary on the feasible the Scottish Government’s plans B & C, have we missed the importance of plan A as UK’s Achille’s heel?

Robin McAlpine spoke at IndyX Fife on the necessity to have plan A, B, C etc., as part of an overall strategy as we’ve no time to go back to start point if a ‘component part’ fails, we must be flexible, proactive and ready to segway if and when the game changes. That’s strategy folks!

Those of us who play chess♟may be at an advantage to see any strategy at all in seemingly contrary actions. It may not even be deliberate by the SNP leadership but that matters not, once the energy from our movement takes hold and runs with it.

The key point is the march back down the hill just can’t be allowed to happen this time. We must ensure we overtop the hill we’ve climbed so many times in 8 years and this time ensure that our collective momentum sustains and builds to make independence inevitable.

To do this we must capture the peoples’ imagination, enthusiasm and breathe life into a vision for a new Scotland, for the betterment of all of us.

To create a peoples’ force for change we must have a singular commitment to our common goal: to deliver independence. To do this we must remember what created our 2013/24 grassroots movement and put any political party hats down to focus on our goal. If we’re to create an unstoppable peoples’ force, we must not allow the drag of day to day government to distract and derail progress. We must decouple indy movement from political parties and at the same time, all our politicians must step up now to raise the bar in personal, party and policy standards. This is a critical role they must play to demonstrate capability and build trust. The wise politicians will get on board or risk getting left behind.

Joanna Cherry QC MP is very well placed to demonstrate both legal and political credibility and show safe hands for Scotland in a UK Parliament where she is respected. Now as Acting Chair of the esteemed and critically important Joint Committee on Human Rights, she must surely play a pivotal role? Her recent call for an independence alliance will be heard well beyond Scotland to further normalise the reality that independence is a question for all the people of Scotland and not restricted to SNP party policy.

Point to note, for our politicians, is that our Celtic cousins on the island of Ireland give no deference and spend exactly zero time discussing mechanism of persuasion of the British to their position. ALL focus is on their own people and convincing them that they goal of united Ireland should happen (most importantly at this stage) WILL happen. This is what leads to international recognition that they are following the will of the people.

They are normalising change, which in itself changes mindsets from fear to opportunity: we must do the same in Scotland. Wales are breathing fresh energy into their constitutional conversation with new voices being raised. Many in England are also questioning their place in a post Brexit world with Mick Lynch throwing a bucket of cold water over UK media and politicians with his fearless, consistent messaging on workers rights, seemingly forgotten by the Labour Party that was founded on this principle!

The normalisation of change should be the key focus to build the necessary pressure that Robin McAlpine spoke about at IndyX Fife, to put UK into a position that it’s easier to have another Edinburgh Agreement than not to.

Egos MUST be put away now as this opportunity is too important to squander by navel gazing and ‘one up man-ship’. You don’t have to believe in someone to take an opportunity they’ve created (deliberately or otherwise) and run with it. What someone does to us isn’t in our control but how we react to it absolutely is! 

To optimise any force it’s imperative we keep our component parts tightly together or energy is lost through the gaps. This applies equally in a political movement as it does in physics. How we square that with facilitating different ideas and embracing other views is something that needs serious attention now.

The ONLY way is to connect on common purpose: Scottish independence and allow autonomy on all else.

What is independence for if not empowerment of democratic self determination for our people on all decisions affecting them? Focus on where we agree and build our campaign as a rich, diverse, organic movement of ideas and a passion to make a better Scotland democratically and respectfully of all views.

We must all set an example to those that will try to make this a single party initiative. It’s not and can’t be if we are to have certainly of a result. We need to start as we mean to go on with a Scotland for everyone if we’re to build trust in our independent future, even amongst those who won’t vote for it.

There is lots to do in the weeks and months ahead but some key things are:

  • Focus on where we agree: Scottish independence 
  • Change IS happening across these islands in Scotland, Wales and the island of Ireland, England must also have a conversation on its post Brexit future 
  • Focus on Scotland’s democratic right to choose
  • Call out UK law breaking domestically & internationally 
  • Precedent of Edinburgh Agreement 
  • Importance of Nation Conversation 
  • Need for Constitutional Convention 
  • Need for Citizen’s assembly 
  • Need for a Nation Building Conversion to capture the nation’s pulse & ambition for what happens in Scotland, in transition to independence and 5 years, 10 years, 20 years on from Independence Day

These are the tools to make independence normal, democratic and inevitable. 

Now is not the time to burn down political houses but to shape consensus on potential with ambitious vision and future the necessary establish democratic checkpoints to build a new nation based on trust that the people can and will decide. 

A new political environment will emerge organically, just as Indy grassroots did in 2013/14 and this should be embraced, not feared by our body politic in Scotland. 

Politicians who have continually asked the people of Scotland to trust them to deliver an independent Scotland must now trust the people to be core to shaping their future. As our people who make their lives here, will make our Independent Scotland a place that’s worth all efforts to achieve it!

So how will a UK Government, chastised by ECHR on illegal immigration deportation policy and embattled with EU over breaking international law over NI Protocol, respond to the democratic challenge laid down by Scottish Government? 

We must, while focusing on Scotland, be alive to the external influencing factors on UK’s position, of power dynamics in Ireland, an increasingly vocal Wales, RMT agitation for workers rights across UK, being a third country to EU, ECHR scrutiny, UN observation on Rights of The Child, all culminating in what must seem to UK Government a democratic pincer movement!

Scotland and our democratically elected Scottish Government must hold our collective nerve and keep laser focussed if we are to look UK Government in the eye as equal partners as we announce “checkmate” ♟

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What society needs from Politicians

If we want our society to succeed, for all of us, we need politicians to succeed in delivering for us. This cannot be measured on career longevity or party standing but on real achievements for country and constituents.

We need to encourage more political minds of a calibre that can critically analyse information, really listen to understand problems and assess potential outcomes  before making decisions. Being a ‘team player’ seems laudable on the surface but not at the detriment of individual thinking. This is particularly important if the end goal is an independent Scotland and all the creativity and problem solving it will take to ensure a country that can thrive for all! 

Without fearless politicians, speaking up against populist tides through the generations how would fundamental societal progress have been achieved, such as the abolition of slavery?

This time of crisis for so many, is not the time for us to prioritise ‘a career in politics’ of compliant ‘team players’, this is the time to seek out and support the brave politicians of principle who will ask the difficult but necessary questions!

If we are to build consensus to achieve the safest, most robust solutions for inclusive, stable, peaceful transition to an independent nation we must ensure the freedom for our elected representatives to question on our behalf, even their own party direction, without sanction.

Gatekeepers of Quality 

Political parties are the gatekeepers to vet candidates to ensure they provide us with a choice of high calibre individuals to vote to represent us. They must take seriously the responsibility for the output their internal  process produces.

We, as the electorate can measure political parties on whether they will deliver on their manifestos and promises at the next election, but this is broad brush as much depends on the alternatives.

Least worst is no longer good enough, if it ever were. Success at elections depends both on your performance (or promises) and that of your opposition. It’s time we had a finer lens to measure and scrutinise, at least annually, how our elected representatives are performing for us.

Removing Barriers to Representative Politics 

It might even make winners less daunted at what they need to do to succeed and help losers know better what voters expectations are for next time. We must put focus on encouraging people from across society to come forward as potential candidates and break through the politico bubble that’s is currently a barrier to those ‘not in the know’.

Surely we can all agree that if we aspire to truly representative government at all levels, then removing such barriers to entry creates ideal conditions. In a Scotland seeking to demonstrate that our desire for independence is on the grounds of civic betterment for us all, this is critical.

If those in power push back and question why must they be transparent and accountable: the electorate should really be asking them “why?”

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Perception in politics can make or break you

Winning is hard, as politicians have a spotlight on them which presents some very real perception problems to navigate. Once a perception is set, it can be hard to change so transparency and accessible accountability provide a sound evidence base to counter unjustified negative perceptions and critically, for the electorate, leaves nowhere to hide for justified ones!

What do politicians do when problems arise and what should they do? 

Option 1:

  • cover the problems and claim “all is well” even when evidence mounts to the contrary

Option 2:

  • throw up hands saying “sorry, we WILL endeavour to do better, we will learn and we will prove to you we are worthy of your vote”

Option 3: 

  • nothing, ignore it

I’ll leave it up to readers to decide what politicians should do and what they think they do do 😉

How to help winners succeed!

How you win is a key focus of political parties. The familiarity of the party machine at election time is what gets HQ juices flowing but where is the energy invested in USING the power from a win, beyond re-election, to deliver. That is what’s actually important to constituents after all! 

Some of our newly elected Scottish councillors will have never done this job before so how are they (or any other newly elected representative) set up to succeed?

Most parties have an assumption that mentoring by an ‘old hand’ is the key yet isn’t that a bit like being taught to drive by your Dad? 

Clash of wills between ‘master and apprentice’ may swiftly derail progress, in addition to the risk of picking up ‘bad habits’ from a ‘master’ with years of driving from an outdated hIghway code from when they ‘passed’. 

The process stuff should be fairly simple to go through at an induction, but beyond administrative learning, how do our new councillors learn to really succeed for their constituents? Simplest way is to observe who gets things done and where their priorities lie. 

When One Master becomes Two 

The key thing that changes from trying to get elected to being elected (unless independent) is a politician’s reporting line suddenly expands beyond their party.

To get elected candidates are part of a team, largely reliant on party brand and voter management strategy to be successful. Once elected, politicians now have two masters: party and constituents and their needs and wants don’t always align. 

Who the primary master is for a politician is fundamental in driving outcomes for; politician, party and constituents. Whether you’re a fan of Churchill or not, or agree or disagree about duties of parliamentarians to be ‘country first, then constituents’ I think few voters would disagree that his stated third duty, to political party should always ranks after both.

Yet as we see in all areas of government, the whip system is often deployed to protect a party position, at times to the detriment of some representative’s own constituents or even arguably the country. I’ve even heard from some candidates that party loyalty is tested at vetting, to assess how much of a ‘team player’ candidates are, using examples setting constituents interest against party! 

I find this very concerning but it reinforces why I could never be a politician in such a party system. I’d likely lose the whip before lunchtime on my first day, assuming I passed vetting!  Most folk who I believe would make excellent political representatives are of the same independent mindset. Some already elected have been punished for not being ‘team players’ either at vetting, selection or even through demotion! 

What do you do when interests clash – Local Hero or Party Nero? 

If politicians ignore constituents issues in favour of party line, they run the risk of; 

  • bad press,
  • heated surgeries
  • red hot constituency inbox
  • reputational damage as ‘Party Nero’, cloth eared to constituents when party interests and personal career interest are assumed to trump constituents interests
  • risk to re-election, if they’ve the stomach to continue in politics.

If the politician aligns with constituents interests, as their primary master, they can become the ‘local hero’ but this is too often at a personal cost within their party.

There’s an abundance of examples at all levels of government of politicians ‘rebelling’ to take positions against their own party’s line and even losing the whip because of it. There are many reasons for this for example:

  • Labour Foreign Secretary Robin Cook’s March 2003 eloquent resignation speech in protest against the invasion of Iraq
  • Andy Wightman’s resignation from Scottish Greens following an uncomfortable whipped adherence to party line on the Lamont ‘6 words’ amendment to The Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences) (Scotland) Bill
  • Elected councillors resigning party whip to stand as independents for their constituents on points of local interest or issues within their party

So what have we learned about the problems (and indeed benefits) of winning? 

Winning presents politicians with the real opportunity to make a positive (or negative) impact on their constituents lives and on society’s direction. The last few years have brought home that many decision made by politicians can be literally be life or death ones. 

Politicians are human beings and will make mistakes as we all do but it’s how they deal with their successes, failures and insecurities that have a wider impact on us all. 

Final part: What does society needs from politicians?

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How do voters know what’s true?

Well, we don’t have much to go on as voters when it comes to ‘actuals’ on a politician’s promises or indeed record in office. It’s true that politics geeks do like a good trawl of a voting record but how many folk have the time, knowledge of process or even interest to do that? Media have a role of course but the front page story above shows, it’s a pretty pointless exercise after votes have been cast! 

What could we do to help voters?

First principles, make it easy for voters. If politicians truly want an empowered electorate we must help them to make robust democratic choices, to support them or their party, by convincing them instead of ‘fooling them long enough’ with flashy soundbites and personality politics, to cast their vote.

To do this, effort must be expended to allow voters to base our decisions on evidence rather than just promises we can’t easily track the delivery of.

How do we know how politicians are actually doing? 

Most people don’t but we could change that, starting with transparency. Look at how other ‘industries’ manage to track employee delivery.

Most employees have some sort of appraisal at annual review to see who is:

  • ‘on track’
  • overachieving and candidate for promotion
  • Underachieving and in need of training etc.
  • failing for other reasons

So why don’t we do this for politicians? Their decisions impact our society so surely their tracking is critical to us all? 

Why don’t our politicians have to provide a ‘report card’ when elected, to measure progress against their stated objectives and election promises?

At every new election a CV should be provided of a politician’s background, experience and views on / voting intentions on key issues! Parties must have this information for their internal vetting so why is it not available to politicians prospective employers: the electorate?

Is it just because no one has asked them to before? Good politicians who deliver have a lot to gain from such accessible transparency after all. 

Next part: Perception in politics can make or break you