The Perfect Storm

Just back from a Hogmanay holiday to Mull…the north west tip which gets the ferocious Atlantic blast one day and then melts in the low sun the next revealing glistening sand and ochre-coloured rocky landscapes.


The kids chased ducks, sheep and bogles in the woods and squelched through seaweed. We came from Scotland, London, Oxford, Vermont and Oregon and only had one political row (yes, independence).


We ate well and drank better. And as ever, I bumped into a Yes supporter. They pop up wherever I go, this time in the ferry queue at Craignure. Phone reception and wi fi were severely limited so I’m catching up with communications generally.

The saddest story seems to be the Pauline Cafferkey, the nurse with Ebola, who went to help others knowing the risk. She seems to encapsulate the dilemmas of our time by making the physical commitment to go, driven by a deeper need to contribute, something we all recognise in ourselves but leave to others – she was caring for the terminally ill and I was filling my glass; she is critically ill and I’m writing about it.

In the political cesspit, I had the usual slew of filth and bile from the Britnat bigots. Can’t something be done about them…the abusers, the conspiracy fantasists, the trolls? There are those who parade as sensible commentators to make a living whose online character is embarrassing, like neds agitating for a fight, and who, like them, have no analysis or meaningful contribution. Insult measures their own shortcomings, not mine.

A retweet of Jenny Marra caught my eye in which she clearly shows how politics works, both the strategic and the simplistic in terms of messaging.

The Vow was promised, voted for and delivered. ‪@theSNP Cllrs burn it in a bin. Embarrassing for Scottish democracy. With Youtube link

Two messages there, both clear and containing deeper triggers. First the Vow has to be completed for Labour to stand any chance of holding enough of the party deserters to save seats in May. The voters have to hear that it was delivered as promised and on time and that the devolution issue is put to bed. It is saying that whatever your devo dream up to and including Devo Max, it is in the bag and that game is over…all the Nats are doing are peddling an out-of-date line. They can’t let go and are obsessed while Labour has calmly got on with the job and given you what you want. All talk of further powers is redundant. Don’t listen. Scotland will be transformed by the Smith proposals which were based on the Vow and guaranteed by Gordon Brown.

The second part confirms the first – that the SNP are not democrats, are obsessed and don’t care what the people voted and how the parties, including themselves, agreed under Smith on a package. Forget the SNP. The constitutional argument is over, now it’s time to revert to traditional politics and vote Labour to boot out the Tories.

Therefore it also plays into the general Labour theme of Tories Out – Labour In.

You can see how that might resonate, indeed how it will resonate with a section of the electorate who’d love a reason to go back to Labour if only they could see one. But the Marra message is shot full of holes even for those who take only a marginal interest in political events and read the Daily Record.

The first question to ask is the most telling: What is the Vow? Nobody has been able to distil into a meaningful and succinct phrase what the Vow is, such is its sweeping insignificance. It is deliberately couched in imprecise language to make it usable by the Unionists without having to agree on any detail and yet implying, in a glancing read, maximum devolution, or damn near it. The only word of meaning is ‘extensive’ and that is debateable on any measure. It could for example cover only the range of powers (welfare, tax, road signs) without the depth of control being offered.

The Vow was a tabloid con, on fake parchment from an organisation dependent on Labour success and whose market is closely aligned with the party’s previous domination and imminent demise – mutually assured destruction. It did produce the Smith Commission and its hotchpotch menu of responsibilities but none has been enacted and very likely, never will be. The original plans were vetoed in London and the remaining contents are hotly disputed at the Palace of Westminster where they are certain to meet with serious revision even if Labour win the election such is the anti-Scottish mood whipped up in England.

This election will become an argument about the governance of Scotland with bid and counter bid and expect more last-minute concessions from Labour if the vote looks like going against them. In that event, I think Smith will be subsumed in the turmoil of campaigning and become an irrelevance.

The way to boost Scotland is to elect Yes candidates whose commitment isn’t to any London leadership.

Marra reminds us though of discipline and how easy it is turn a misstep against us. I can’t think of any political operator anywhere who would have nodded agreement to burning policy papers on camera. You can make any comparative judgement you like, it was a mistake and it’s too early to be using up popular capital on unnecessary gestures.

But I think the key issue in Scotland has been largely ignored so far. It is this. With independence out of the way (effectively), voters are free to back the SNP without the ‘fear of separation.’ Remember, it wasn’t love of independence that got rid of Jack McConnell and Labour in 2007 – it was disgust at his obsequiousness to London and failure to ‘stand up for Scotland’. And it wasn’t love of independence that drove them to give the SNP an overall majority four years later – it was admiration for a job well done in government. Many Scots voted SNP despite the independence policy and because they knew it required a referendum where they could decide that question precisely.

Here we are again…a rampant SNP, an effective and popular government, an improbable and unproven opposition, a hated Westminster and NO immediate ‘threat’ of independence. This is the perfect storm in which the Scots can demand what they really wanted all along (by all opinion polling) and that’s powerful Devo Max. Labour will only deliver, if they can, the diluted Smith bilge whereas a sizeable SNP block has a chance to end the stalemate and force proper change.

Jenny Marra can implore Scots to get rid of the Tories by voting Labour, but we did massively in 2010 and still got Tories. Even if Labour did oust Cameron, they are only offering the incoherent Smith plans, not real devolution.

Having past up the chance for transformative change last year, the Scots could be on the brink of turning not just Scotland but the UK inside out and opening the sluices to release a tidal wave of powers to people across the UK.


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21 thoughts on “The Perfect Storm

  1. smiling vulture

    The Vow is so vague,even the small print fails

  2. Good to have you back Derek.

    Pauline C. is in our thoughts and hopes for a speedy recovery. And thoughts too for her family.

    As for labour Derek, your right that folk can vote for the SNP without the independence baggage and as rightly pointed out they have governed Scotland well. I dread the thought of labour gaining support here as i believe they are responsible for keeping Scotland tied to WM policies.

    Roll on May 2015 . An SNP landslide will send the word to WM that the battle may have been lost but the war goes on.

    Happy new Year to you and all your followers and lets make 2015 the year to remember after last years amazing journey where Scotland awoke.

    There’s a real buzz starting and the polls show a huge swing to the SNP . The fears and scares won’t work. Not this time. Happy dayz ahead 🙂

    • Heh, there’s more than one way to skin a cat YESGUY.

      So people chose not to rely on themselves in September. They preferred the ‘safety blanket’ of the union. Well OK, let’s sell this another way then. We simply put the premise to the public that our representation to Westminster must gain the maximum from the current deal and do so whilst safeguarding our national interests. If this is a business arrangement, then people should look for the maximum return on their investment and have the proper expertise in place to protect their share in the endeavour, yes? 😉

      If Scotland were to behave as any partner should whether it be business or politics, then Westminster will find us all but ungovernable anyway. We can still enact significant change to our benefit fella, no worries about that. Better yet, if we behaved as a partner should by selecting representatives who put their client’s/electorate’s interests first, it may still lead to a revision of politics as it is practiced all across these islands. The change in how people view their politics, their world, has already begun. We just need to keep on, keepin’ on. 🙂

  3. Good article, my concern is that some yes voters believe the hype that they need to vote Labour to stop the Tories (even though we know that will not happen). Hopefully the SNP are being seen as a force for good in Scotland, and people will see that we will get nothing unless we have people actively speaking up for our nation.
    PS the last para should be “passed up the chance” not “past”

  4. Derek,
    Absoulutely agree with your comments about Pauline Cafferkey whose selflessness should be a lesson to us all.
    As far as the useless Smith commission report goes and further devolution,we should campaign vigorously to have the Scottish parliament made permanent (only to be suspended by a plebicite of the people of Scotland) and the end of the block grant.
    Making the parliament permanent will,in itself,involve a major constitutional rearrangement as at present we are technically “subjects” of the monarch in England and through her parliament in England subject to her laws.
    I expect this to be rejected out of hand by the London establishment.
    The end of the block grant will enable us to decide what we share and pool with England on our terms and not those of unelected governments in London.
    Apart from that,I am pretty relaxed about things!

  5. The SNP would never admit it, but they were victims of their own success.

    The referendum came five years too soon IMO, but with a majority achieved in 2011, the SNP had no choice but to hold one during their term. Scotland voted SNP in 2011 as a reward for good governance not for independence. The people were not ready for independence but a referendum was promised and a referendum had to be held. A bridge too far. As it happened, I think 45% for YES exceeded most people’s expectations, and has brought the independence movement forward in leaps and bounds. Independence is no longer a wild, romantic dream. Independence is a viable option that growing numbers of scots now consider the best way to go. The people are still not quite ready for full independence, but we are getting very close.

    The initial excitement of BT, that a majority NO vote would spell curtains for the SNP, has now faded to dust as the full horror of big SNP gains expected at Westminster sinks in.

    With the threat of independence no longer imminent, of course the SNP are seen as the best hope for protecting Scotland from what’s coming (at Westminster and Holyrood). BT panicked and threw everything they had to scrape a NO vote at the last minute, and now Labour in particular is hopelessly compromised (north and south of the border). In 2014, BT demonstrated tactical brilliance, but strategic stupidity. Tactics win battles, but strategies win wars. The prospects for the union do not look good. Not good at all.

  6. Happy New Year Derek and all.
    Jenny and her wide-eyed indignation again. A true representative of the British State. If we say it was done, it was done: no argument from the peasants, please or we might get violent. That would be reverting to traditional politics, Derek. As for the burning, I’m always deeply suspicious of anyone in a prominent position in a political organisation who does anything as stupid as that. You would almost think they were trying to manipulate public opinion: in the opposite direction to the one they claim to support. Not that I’m saying that’s what they did. Just that you would think that’s what they were doing, if you were bad enough minded I mean. If that makes any sense.

  7. I think Derek you have put the case for voting for the SNP SSP And The SCOTTISH GREENS beyond
    any kind of doubt. As has been said many times before it is the people in holyrood we want to have REAL POWER

  8. With Angus Roberson in the role of John Redmond, Ed Miliband playing a twenty first century Herbert Asquith, and dinosaurs like Foulkes and Lang leading the opposition to Home Rule in the Lords, it’s like history repeating itself. Will Murphy end up reprising Carson? Will Miliband, like Asquith, prevaricate until the situation threatens to run out of control? Exciting times, but I hope not too exciting.

  9. We are, for better or worse, partners in a political union. The operative word being ‘partners’.

    Now, hopefully not just me, but whether its a business partnership or a political one, when putting someone in place to represent your interests, safeguard your investment and protect your rights, you’re kinda hoping that said representation isn’t playing for the other team under the table. You’re also kinda hoping they aren’t playing for both sides and lining their own pockets, securing their own futures and their own careers. Lastly you’re kinda hoping that the people you’ve picked to represent your interests aren’t completely inept.

    If it turns out they’re some or all of the above however, then its time for change. Its time to clean house and start again. We had the first of two chances to do so on September 18th. The second chance will come in May. Vote Tory get Tory, Vote Labour get Tory. Vote Libdem get lapdog.

    Vote SNP get representation which protects our interests for as long as this union lasts. Agree with most of their policies or not, what cannot be doubted ever, is that they put the interests of their electorate first.

  10. Salmon’s stated there was more than one way to get independence. He didn’t mean unilateral declaration of independence. Instead he meant a situation where Scotland became ungovernable from Westminster. We are entering that phase, and an SNP majority will begin the process of the deconstruction of the UK state. It will begin in 2015 and end in 2017. We can call it defacto independence or another name. However it will not require the plebiscite to revote in another media rigged referendum. It will be a joint agreement to dissolve the union and the people will have made their choice by electing the SNP at Westminster and Holyrood.

  11. Luigi and big Jock ,two good analysis —many years ago I remember Alex Salmond saying if we have a referendum and lose it it would still be worth while , because it would put the possibility of independence and the idea of it into the Scottish mind –you too have just summed that up well done

  12. Sounds like you had a good time in my old home area!
    there should have been more Yesser evident than just one in a ferry que though!
    Spot on with you analysis though but might I add, IF we dont then I fear for Scotland, a weak showing at this election in May will open the floodgates to destroy our culture and way of life entirely, it’s bad enough that there are more gaelic speakers outside Scotland than in it, but a weak showing now will be the end, certainly for my generation

  13. Steve Asaneilean

    I hope poor Pauline pulls through – I have a colleague going out there next month to do much the same thing.

    As for the coming Westminster election Labour have already set out their stall with two issues yesterday.

    Firstly they seem to oppose universal free school meals to all P1s to P3s despite the obvious health, nutritional and educational benefits (and goodeness knows Scotland needs all three). So I hope Nicola will in them down at FMQs this week and get it on record that they don’t support this Scottish Government policy – I am sure that will be a vote winner for Labour.

    Secondly, they propose 1000 more nurses than anything the SNP offer. How can they do this? Setting aside the simple issue of where you find 1000 trained nurses, how can the Labour/Tory/Liberal axis make any promises or offers about health, education or any other devolved matters? These matters are, by definition, determined by the Scottish Government which will remain an SNP Government until at least 2016.

    The only party that can make deliverable promises on health, education, etc. during this Westminster campaign are the SNP as they are the ones currently in a position to deliver.

    Why on earth the SNP has not already jumped on this is beyond me. Every time Lab/Tor/Lib makes a promise about a devolved matter in the next 4 months they should be called out with the simple question – how on earth do you propose to deliver this promise unless it is through cooperation with the SNP Government in Holyrood?

  14. Jenny Marra had to field hostile questioning on the “Today” prog this morning over Murphy’s claim from the mansion tax, and defended this by saying as Scotland voted to remain in the UK it was just as appropriate as Scotland’s oil being put into the UK pool !

    • Interesting. It shows that Unionists are being forced to address Yes narratives (‘it’s Scotland’s oil’) and therefore the success of such narratives in the wider media. Even though she asserts the oil is ‘British’ she is still having to address that it is ‘shared’ ..,,. and that England is benefitting disproportionally from it.

  15. Steve Asaneilean

    But it still leaves the question unanswered – how can the LabTorLibs make any promises on matters devolved to the Scottish Parliament that could only be implemented by going through the Scottish Government which will remain SNP until at least May 2016? This is what journalists and broadcasters should be asking everytime one of them makes a promise over a devolved matter. But will they? I won’t hold my breath. But it is surely a first line of attack at FMQs for Nicola.

  16. Jenny Marra seems to be yet another example of one of those offspring who fail to live up to the standards set by a talented parent (in her case, singer/songwriter Michael, a REAL socialist).

    Regarding Labour’s opposition to the universal provision of free school meals to all P1 to P3 children, surely it is obvious to Murphy and his Holyrood Branch Office desk thumpers, that the “wealthy” parents pay more tax than their “poorer” fellow parents, thus are contributing more to Gideon’s Treasury, which eventually finds its way back to the Scottish Government via the Block Grant?

  17. I agree Proudscot. We had the same argument about prescriptions. Why shouldnthe wealthy get them. Well if you are 60 years old and have paid higher tax for 30 years of your life. You have also paid National Insurance and propped up the NHS with your taxes. Why should you then not have the right to free prescriptions. That’s why criticising universal benefits is impossible. The rich can argue that the poor have no right as they might never have paid tax. The poor can claim the rich are not entitled as they can afford to pay for prescriptions. The working classes sometimes think they are the only group who deserve benefits like free prescriptions. So the very fact that these benefits are universal means that they are fair for everyone as we are all entitled. There is no discrimination.

  18. Steve Asaneilean

    Jenny is Michael’s niece rather than daughter

  19. Just a general thanks for all your good words, each an every one of which I hang on religiously. And to prove it…..last para, first line, second word, should be ‘passed’ not ‘past’. Sack the subbie!

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