Don’t Let the Facts Get In The Way

Academics. What are they like? For every honest intellectual there is an Adam Tomkins (entertaining but a one-man battlefield between the brainy and the bonkers), pitiable Tom Gallagher (deranged and now a dignity-free zone) and the estimable Gerry Hassan (from avid analyst to attack dog).

They’re like tightrope walkers, inching forward and forever wobbling on the verge of falling into their own prejudices. (Adam’s Spectator piece on Named Person Armageddon is my favourite zoomer read of all time). I’ll pass over Tom who just needs someone to love him and turn to oor Gerry. He has been a mainstay of our national debate and a chronicler of Labour’s decline bringing an ardent interest and irrepressible zeal to political discussion. His interviews in (frequently my) BBC studio were performances rather than talks, filled with detail and illuminated by bright ideas and wide perspectives. To be honest I’ve always liked him and thought of him as a bit of a pal. You know, political chum, friendly acquaintance, that sort of thing.

Sometime ago he began to retweet at me in what at times I took to be an aggressive tone (easy to misunderstand on Twitter) using language that seemed designed to wound, even rounding on me in support, of all people, Chris Deerin.

It’s felt like something has changed such is the dismissive sweep of his denunciation. I felt I was being corrected. The professor was censorious. Now he has taken to personally insulting me in print (Left Review, in something purporting to review events over the summer) as a ‘close-minded nationalist’ harbouring conspiracy theories. Well, we all live in the street and I give as good as I get. I defend but don’t complain, if you see what I mean. Everybody has an opinion. But it should be based on some evidential basis, no? I object to being traduced on a false premise and without a shred of evidence. (I’ve asked for some but so far nothing is forthcoming. Is that how academics work nowadays?)

So I wondered a bit about my ‘closed mind’ because it’s true I will go to my grave believing in our independence. But to me that’s called commitment. It’s belief in a vision of our future. And I’ve always said that I am a democrat first. I accept the decision of the Scottish people even to the point of worrying that a narrow referendum win would be divisive and stymie progress. I do not rule out any other option for Scotland and immediately after the vote argued for a federal system. Since we voted against independence I would accept greatly increased powers short of nationhood.

I have advocated a working alliance between the SNP and Labour putting aside the national question because the policy differences are mostly contrived and hold back public policy development. I proposed a formal process before the budget involving all parties given equal status with the Finance Secretary to press their case for resources in order to find the widest possible consensus. To counter poor legislation I advocated an all party committee to revise the practical impact of new laws approved by the parliament as a quick form of revising second chamber. I argue for a pro-EU, internationalist Scotland committed to equality at home and partnership abroad with no military engagement not sanctioned by the UN. Closed mind?

In conversations on Newsnet I don’t even argue a case against my guest. Instead I invite them on the basis that we hear what they have to say, not me. They are told to expand their ideas and be as expressive as possible. We speak to socialists, Labourites, Greens, academics, artists and rebels. I let their voices be heard in a way and at a length the BBC doesn’t countenance. Newsnet itself has no position on independence as an editorial stance. It is, like the rest of the new media, broadly Yes but publishes criticism of all parties and the government. Have a look.

Personally I have criticised, from memory, the handling of Named Person, SNP currency policy, European planning during the indyref, fracking, lack of dissent on the backbenches, heavy discipline at Westminster, doubted oil extraction policy and the glorification of Sturgeon. I supported Ken Macintosh for Labour leader and Tommy Sheppard for SNP deputy. Does that qualify for Gerry’s Closed Mind Award? Or is the truth that he hasn’t bothered to read and fell back on a prejudice because that’s good enough for him?

He’s right about conspiracies though. The first is the worst. There is a conspiracy that makes sure the kettle is empty whenever I want tea. It is always me who fills it up.

Other than that I’m at a loss. In fact the only ‘conspiracy’ he names is one I have repeatedly dismissed, namely ‘the BBC stole the referendum’. I explicitly disagree – in print – with G A Ponsonby that there is any organised system in BBC news to skew the agenda. There isn’t. I would have been part of it. I would have known about it. I have written that the referendum was sound. Suggesting otherwise is whacky. I can’t think of a single conspiracy I subscribe to that would justify such a reference.

What has happened to Gerry? What has happened to academic rigour? Or has he been corrupted by his new status as mainstream commentator – paid by the anti independence Daily Record organisation – and imagining that he is now a journalist rather than a ‘writer and thinker?’ Surely the best advice is to stick to the day job.

Attacking without foundation because you disagree is one of those tightrope issues, teetering between bias and bigotry. Its bastard offspring is the casual smear so beloved of George Foulkes. It really isn’t a good look for Gerry at all. I won’t detain you over the irony of accusations of personal attacks from someone writing… personal attacks.

Then I had a light bulb moment. The contrast he makes between myself and Bella Caledonia sounded familiar, especially with mention of G A Ponsonby. And of course, it’s because the real independence sideshow over the summer, counting May, was the personalised attacks by Bella on those of us (myself and Paul Kavanagh included) who welcomed the SNP’s tax plans. Eat Your Cereal, it said expressing contempt for those who didn’t follow the Rise mantra of hitting the higher earners too hard. Missing from the Hassan view of recent history is Bella’s disgraceful personalised campaigns against James Kelly, myself and Wee Ginger Dug (as well as derisive treatment of Newsnet) while pretending not to be promoting Rise. Why is this not included in Gerry’s analysis? How could any look back omit the worst and undignified in-fighting the Yes media has suffered? Surely it was the best example of exactly the kind of backward, closed-mind politicking he claims to despise?

Perhaps, just perhaps, the answer lies in the Radical Independence conference in the months before the referendum. I remember going in to a room being addressed by two speakers one of whom looked remarkably like Gerry Hassan. It was hair-raising stuff. The quote I recall was: Scotland is not a democracy. Scotland is run by the corporations…

Now we all know big business is too close to government and they grease the revolving door between Whitehall and industry but is Nicola, and was Alex, really being told what to do by Amazon? Was Salmond so close to Murdoch that he stopped legislation? Was the 85 per cent turn out in the indyref corrupted by the CBI?

This is the kind of hysterical nonsense that chases away voters. Is Gerry a secret Rise agent? Well he did write – in the anti-indy Sunday Mail – that the party could become ‘a truly radical voice’, although that was before the election when they got 0.5 per cent…

However he votes, maybe we shouldn’t look to Gerry for any comfort as we prepare for the reformation of Yes in the coming days. This is what he wrote after the indyref.

Yes and No are over. They are not the future. There is no future in them. They belong to the past – and died on September 18th. The Yes/No binary has to be lost to allow the emergent new voices, spaces and movements which came forth in the referendum to grow, be set free, and find a place to flourish which is not dependent or related to the independence referendum.

There can be no real Yes Alliance. This is for a number of reasons. Yes cannot live as a political movement post-September 18th.

I don’t know if it’s my love of a good conspiracy but I think there will be a renewed Yes movement. It is not over. There is a future. We shouldn’t allow the doubters to introduce personality politics.  It would be a pity if someone as outward looking as Gerry wasn’t part of it. I don’t want to close my mind to the idea.

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Damned If I Know

I don’t know if your antennae are twitching and what messages they’re picking up. I’m best known for my protruding proboscis – honest. It sniffs out what is happening in the dark corners of public life to keep me informed. Then turns out to be completely wrong…

The bouquets floating in the air right now are sweet and sour. The fragrant aroma with the fresh zing is the small but discernible drift from No to Yes wafted on a wave of amazement over Brexit. The familiar fetid pong is the unchanging wall of No – mutually exclusive at first but mingling over time in an intriguing medley suggesting something’s afoot. Call it Essence of Maybe.

Brexit hasn’t crashed the economy. Like all percussive events, it blasts through the economic landscape bouncing off the walls, destroying masonry here yet opening up unseen corners there. The pound fell. Foreign currency increased in value as a result and overseas visitors come and spend more.

Shocked we may be but nothing short of a nuclear strike can stop the British consumer from shopping – even with money we don’t actually have. So the high street looks buoyant. In fact quite a few of those sectoral indicators are facing in the right direction despite the Brexit threat, a bit like London shops open as usual after the Blitz.

So far the fear is all forecasting and prediction and we know how clever economists are at that. However it stands to reason that apart from the familiar moan about uncertainty, the damage, if it is to come, will follow first, the Article 50 trigger and second, the deals that can be struck on international trade. What markets will we have access to and what are the tariffs?

It’s clear from the desperate recruitment going on in Whitehall that the UK is unequipped for the scale and depth of the talks to come. It will be months before we are even staffed up to begin a process. Expect stories to emerge of massive deals for private contractors like McKinseys and KPMG called in to plug gaps.

There appears to be no agreement yet on what Britain wants to get out of this. (Now we’ve got our country back). Single market access? A special deal for services? Will we accept full-on immigration? It isn’t clear if Theresa May is plotting silently or simply hiding from difficult decisions.

I understand Sturgeon’s frustration. She’s talking up the future damage but we don’t know if that will come to pass. Until she has firm evidence she can’t plan her way to a referendum. She does though have an assurance from the Prime Minister that Scotland will listen to options on Scotland which suggests there is wriggle room within a UK deal to accommodate some Scottish preferences. But independence is not likely among them. Should there be a Scotland-only EU referendum first? A strong positive result in a second EU vote would pile pressure on both London and Brussels to recognise a separate Scottish status in keeping with the UK’s devolved structure and the EU’s now-forgotten mantra of subsidiarity. That would be jumping up and down and shouting at them: Look at me! Don’t abandon me!

The continuing inaction is delaying any substantial movement in public opinion. Scots seem to be waiting for the outline of a plan before linking Brexit with indy. One does not automatically lead to the other, it appears.

Unless that is, you are a committed European who doesn’t feel at home in a UK which rejects the 27. That instinct is part of your worldview and your innate rejection of any hint of racism, a sense that outside the EU lies isolation or that it’s just nudging us towards the US. Europe, despite its neo liberal policies and expansionist impulses, is built on a concept of solidarity and internationalism which appeals to the left. Leaving it feels counter intuitive, even a little mad and leaves us in the hands of a generation of Tory politicians hungry for TTIP, for their own form of unregulated labour and ready to shred the human rights convention.

Even if the gloomy forecasts of the single currency-led demise of the EU itself are right, many would rather go down with our partners and begin the search for a new European agreement than turn into a northern Singapore.

That sense of impending loss through Brexit is peeling away previous No voters. Simon Pia and Eric Joyce won’t be the only ones. But the mass huddle of No’s isn’t for turning, I fear. It’s impossible to know what, if anything, would eventually convince them. Probably national necessity of some kind like the EU itself offering a one-off take-it-or-leave-it choice of remaining with the departing UK or the definite promise of assuming the UK’s membership (supported by the bulk of sources they respect like business and voices within the Unionist parties).

My suspicion is that much of their continuing obduracy is a straight reaction to a second referendum. And I reckon Sturgeon is miscalculating here. However it came about there is no doubt the No side wanted to believe the idea that indyref was a once-in-a-lifetime event – a ground-shaking challenge that had to be faced down and never repeated. We forget that while we were enervated and enriched by it, to many it was an end-of-time experience. They will do anything to avoid a second…even voting Tory to keep the SNP out as some Labour people did.

I’m worried by FM talk of impending referendum legislation and plans being laid, not because we shouldn’t be ready but because it seems to run counter to public mood. Of course on the Yes side there is impatience and it’s true the ground has changed justifying a new tilt, yet there is a canny Scot ambivalence at work. Another referendum? Two years after the last? Can’t we just accept we lost?

People are unimpressed by arguments about broken promises made to keep the Union. Popular scepticism expects politicians to break promises. Like the markets anticipating a fall, they build that in to their belief system.

So care is needed not to distribute the pitchforks too early. The peasants get restless. If nothing happens they look for someone to blame. It is a classic political error to let loose the hounds before the prey is in sight. It proved costly for Gordon Brown (and Douglas Alexander)

I met a government minister this week and gleaned the idea that we are in Donald Rumsfeld territory with some known knowns and too many unknown knowns. At the risk of depressing enthusiasm, it is conceivable that this will take us beyond a second general election – May could even try a quickie this year – and perhaps beyond the Scottish vote in 2021. The implication there is that Scotland might actually come out of the EU first which means a totally different kind of legal and political challenge.

At the risk of sounding like Rumsfeld, we are where we are. Robin McAlpine is right about groundwork being needed just in case and next week the stirrings of a revived Yes will swell it back into an organisation. But forcing the pace on a confused electorate which can’t see the downside of Brexit yet and is still coming to terms with a new British leader, is a gamble with the potential to backfire.

Sometimes it’s nerves of steel you need and the strength to stay your hand. Meanwhile keep sniffing the air and be ready for the moment the scent gets hot.

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Can I Quote You?

The persecution of journalists, eh? James Foley, beheaded by jihadists. John Cantlie still held by ISIS two years on. US reporter Alison Parker shot dead live on air. Gadzhimurat Kamalov hit six times in a drive-by shooting in Moscow. Of the 27 journalists known to have been murdered so far this year, 37 per cent were related to politics, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Across the world, even excluding the largest category (killed in war), journalists lose their lives as vested interests see no option to prevent truth being told or minds changed. Surprisingly few result in prosecutions. Russia now has a Remembrance Day for Journalists Killed in Action.

I knew an editor in Kashmir who published what rebels told him or he would die, a female reporter from Chile who had been forced not to tell the story of abductions under Pinochet and a Yugoslavian journalist who feared he could not work under threats from Serbs and Croats as the Balkan conflict got under way. (All encountered in the US in 1991).

I’ve had my notes examined and my camera crew’s film vetted by Israeli security, been delayed at a Romanian airport while my director’s passport was held up (for a bribe) and recorded secretly in China after being denied a journalist’s visa. I had to go up a stair into a room full of unsmiling men to ask ‘Sinn Fein’ permission to record voices on the street in West Belfast.

Believe me, working as a hack at Holyrood is a doddle.

Which is why the petty hysteria of the Scottish media looks so parochial. David leaves Twitter. Stephen forced to stop writing. STV intimidated by MPs. What a bunch of self-obsessed pansies. Just how many of these straw characters has actually earned their spurs in what the wider world thinks of as frontline journalism, I’m not sure. I know one who bravely confronted a lesbian TV presenter on her doorstep because she was pregnant. (That’s a story, see?)

You get the impression that making a name for yourself means, in reality, stirring up controversy. It doesn’t seem to entail learning the trade or building a reputation, laying a foundation for consistent quality or insight. In other words, say something outlandish to provoke a reaction and, hey presto, you make your mark. In the dolls’ house that is Scottish journalism – a miniature construct staffed by small people –opinion divides. Your wee gang takes against the other lot. It’s…what do we call them?…the Brian Spanner Set against the Nat Loyalists.

The result isn’t just febrile, it’s deranged. Thank the Gods of Newsprint that above the rabble there are rational voices of intellect that have mostly been with us a long time, indicating lasting quality.

Newspapers in my experience were always creatures, if not of the establishment, then of the consensus. Whatever we as reporters dug up on corruption, hypocrisy or error and blasted across the front page (with any luck) didn’t shake the foundations of Scottish society. Yes, individuals were brought down, companies destroyed or elections lost as a result of media scrutiny. But we never challenged the basis on which society was built. There were areas that few, if any, ever entered. There was little or no public appetite for a communist Britain for example or a Nationalist Scotland. We laughed at those. Proportional representation was foreign. Bosses confronted unions. Politics was binary. We did get a fright in the 80’s when the Social Democrats very nearly broke the mould but they were terribly nice middle class types who weren’t very threatening. So, although it wasn’t particularly happy, Scotland in Britain knew its place. Our demands were limited to a measure of local responsibility for running police, the courts, the schools and a bit of industrial development which we effectively did anyway. We could oversee it with an elected assembly, maybe. What do you think?

What has happened since is of course the SNP’s fault. No, I mean it. The rise of the SNP did what no movement had done before – it broke the consensus. The basis on which we all viewed our country and ourselves fell away beneath our feet.

Suddenly the certainties turned into doubts. Our indulgence of nationalism became dangerous because for the first time it really could mean independence. This was no longer protest or grievance. They governed. It was raw politics – a new reality. Something we could reach out and hold. Instead of teenagers talking loudly of sex, we were doing it. This was the real thing.

I think this change has been fundamental, like a bereavement or a redundancy or maybe a medical diagnosis. It has left us searching for a new stability, an emotional concrete. Throw in the still barely believable demise of Labour and the minor catastrophe of Brexit and we are a nation discombobulated.

Our media reflects that, caught in addition in a downward spiral of sales and revenue, the move to online overshadowed by the loss of advertising income. Within shrinking budgets Scotland’s media is searching for a new reality, trying out new messages and charting possibly a new course. Meanwhile a gale is blowing against it in social media where it is not only challenged with a ferocity it cannot comprehend but ridiculed and often humbled by instant correction and contradiction. The idea that there is a respectable newspaper industry which, whatever individual titles’ foibles, still represents the consensus of society, is the Woolworths of the media world – just a memory. Putting a Unionist writer under, for example, a Scotsman masthead no longer confers status or respect. He is just another writer alongside the bloggers and online commentators. One day soon the BBC will realise this too and stop pretending the public cares about print content as if it were the latest despatch from the front.

For these reasons the tiny circle of newspaper diehard anti-Nats who constantly reference each other are, I think, suffering a spasm of bewilderment at their fate. This is what defeat looks like. The self-identification as one of an embattled group implies ‘Yes. We’re going down but we’re going down together.’ So they support each other. When David is chased off Twitter – by Nats, of course – Kenny pays him to write it in the Times. I didn’t look but I assume he also wrote it for the Herald so, right there, you get paid twice for your tantrum. There is a living in this victimhood thingy.

When STV decided the reputational damage wrought by Daisley was too great, this was put into the public domain (wonder by whom?) as another SNP-initiated purge of the innocents. I have been utterly astonished that a regulated broadcaster allowed this unpleasant, low-grade, agit-prop student drivel to go out under its name. Separating commentator role from editor would have helped but even then it would be damaging. STV can definitely have as part of their website a commentary page with the most provocative material it is legal to publish. What the rules on impartiality demand and a wider expectation from the viewing public expects, is not to be confronted with an STV staff journalist expressing personal views on issues of the day. Commissioning them from other, yes. Supporting a political party? Israeli policy? Insulting SNP supporters? Absolutely not.

The word is that objections came from within STV. Are we surprised? If you were concerned about the integrity of the station would you be happy to see Daisley represent your journalism rather than Ponsonby? The truth, as I wrote on the one occasion he attacked this site, is that he showed he was a first rate writer with something to say – when he started. Three months later he had said it all and descended into the infantile. He became an embarrassment.

But as one of the commentariat insiders he has to be championed. And it’s here we can trace the threads of influence our Stephen has inculcated as an array of media luvvies, whom I assume to be anti-Nats, retweet his ousting by the SNP (never mind its not true, this is a propaganda war) – Andrew Neil, Oliver Kamm, Nick Cohen among them. It is a given in some circles that the SNP is a sinister force akin to Putin’s Russia – so that’s why Sputnik is here?

We have to live with that because there are some things you can’t change and the bigotry that infects the British media establishment is beyond reform. Although I have to admit for me personally this is a positive development. The more these opinion-formers misrepresent us, the more they encourage us to hold to our beliefs. The more British thinking regards Scotland as separate and incomprehensible, the more likely independence becomes. Their real message is: You’re not like us. (Thank you)

That the reinforcement of his role as editor is taken as a cause celebre by the aggrieved tells us more about the small-minded journalists of Scotland than about the issue itself. All I can see that’s happened is confirmation of his actual job as editor – hardly comparable to arbitrary imprisonment or threats of death. I suspect he’ll be writing again too but maybe more in the style of Laura Kuenssberg than Katy Hopkins.

Did SNP MPs complain about him? You bet. All politicians play the same game of questioning journalists. Did they ‘force him out’? I refuse to believe a) that his dismissal was suggested or b) a media management would bow in such a way. They might decide to change a writer if they agreed he was giving them problems but they would make sure it couldn’t be construed as the result of pressure. Did someone else on their staff embarrass them by suggesting otherwise to contacts outside?

Funny how this little episode has been manipulated into an anti-Nat conspiracy when so many previous confirmed incidents were downplayed or ignored. Did they rush to defend Isabel Fraser insulted on air by Ian Davidson? There are countless attempts by Unionist politicians to oust journalists. The Tories tried with me under Annabel Goldie and George Foulkes also tried through the Sunday Times (today outraged at the Daisley nonsense). There was not a murmer of complaint over either. You may remember Alistair Campbell and the Gilligan affair which not only lost him his job but the director general as well.

The Daisley business is the latest outbreak of contrived victimhood which fits perfectly with Adam Tomkins’ one party state. Imagine being a professor of public law and an elected opposition politician in a country (that isn’t a state) with six parties and a proportional voting system and actually calling it a one party state. And Adam is the brains of the Scottish Tories.

Shrinking as it is, our journalism has some who can live with the best, who know not just the newspaper trade but the people and the country of which they write and whose breadth of understanding defies partisan branding. We should treasure them. Treasure too the freedom we have to express without persecution. Respect the trade in words and ideas denied to so many elsewhere.

And please, don’t pretend there is a civil rights controversy in a man being asked to do his job properly to safeguard his employer’s reputation. That’s not persecution. Ask the Committee to Protect Journalists.




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Yer Man

Got home from holiday to find a phone message from an SNP candidate for deputy leader. Would I like to join the launch and may be do a bit of tweeting? I was suddenly confronted with making a choice when I’d told myself it was up to party members. Since I never joined, I mentally opted out – and grateful to do so. It’s a difficult field to choose from.

This isn’t Kezia or Murphy or Alex and…and whoever else was in for the Labour deputy job. (Do the Tories have a deputy?)* Is there a second-in-command, as it were, to Willie Rennie?

No, this looks life a right-enough tussle between three heavy hitters and one makeweight in a party where the deputy really can play a meaningful role. I will discount the Inverclyde councillor as he isn’t going to win but I commend his ambition.

If I had a vote would I give to Angus? I have to say he deserves heaps of credit for building a profile at Westminster for the whole movement by mastering and manipulating the old boys’ club by the Thames. He is second only to Sturgeon in the positive publicity he has generated often from quite unlikely places in the London political establishment and the commentariat, aided of course by the retreat from serious politics of Labour. But I buy the line that he is already an important part of the leadership apparatus and I’m not convinced adding another title would bring tangible benefits. I think deputy is a role which allows creative tension in order to prod and probe at the leader’s sensibilities…stops ‘em getting complacent. Nothing worse than supporters morphing into Yes men and shaving off the sharper edges of the boss.

So Alyn or Tommy?

There are few people in the party I have admired for so long as Alyn Smith whose wry take on the assumed certainties and predictable personalities among the SNP I share. One of my main regrets from the indyref is that the party didn’t listen early enough to his promptings on Europe and how it should be broatched to avoid the car crash that occured. He’s an enthusiast without being a bore and has settled easily into the Euro scene. He exudes the kind of confidence I expect from a European insider representing an independent member state rather than a devolved region. The highest praise I can offer is to say he reminds me of Allan Mccartney whose early death robbed the SNP of one of our most sane and intellectually sound envoys. You couldn’t ask for a better replacement.

The European angle is now as important as Westminster and it would do no harm to underline that point by making one of the most dynamic politicians – tasked with persuading other nations to Scotland’s side – second only to the First Minister.

And then there’s Tommy. In some ways he’s the most interesting because he represents the new breed who have enthused the party and swelled it with dynamism – and impatience. He grew tired of and fell out with Labour. He helped start a thriving business in comedy. He is a doer and an organiser who gives the impression of being unstoppable. I imagine him chafing under the SNP tight discipline at Westminster where there is a group of the new MPs turning restless. This is a good thing because the pressure for change and progress eventually nudges the tiller to the west. If you were looking for someone with the wit and the energy to challenge the status quo short of outright rebellion, you’d pick him.

It may be a Labour past but there is about him the sense of indignation that there such inequality so while the Chinese long view of the SNP old hands makes sense, the dig and drive of a Sheppard can be a constant spur to progress and development. Being deputy would open up to him opportunities for media outings in which he is persuasive and often compelling. And wouldn’t the sight of someone who only joined the party in 2014 rising to such a giddy perch act as an incentive to recent converts and those still tempted? Anyway he’d add a vivid splash of character and I’d vote for him. Not that it’s any of my business…

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Nothing Can Stop Me Now

Will I ever give up independence? Would I stop believing if we couldn’t get into the EU? If (stick with me here) the UK ever offered a genuinely federal system would it end my dream of full self-determination and sovereignty?

Eh, no. Not that I wouldn’t settle in the medium term for a federal arrangement giving 90 per cent of powers to Edinburgh as I fully expected to happen after both a 45 per cent Yes vote followed by a crushing general election SNP win – fool that I am.

I’d take it with both hands and then just damp down the independence embers in my pipe the way granddad Bateman did with his Condor sliced and await the time to puff them back into life. We Scottish nationalists can be pleasantly patient knowing our day will come.

So why do we expect British nationalists to surrender in the face of Brexit? If I believed in the UK, I’m damned if I’d stop because we’d be out of Europe. I’d be more likely to think it was an opportunity to show just what the country could do – which is of course exactly what May’s Brexiteers are saying. I agree there is much disquiet around the country at the implications that nobody took any notice of before the vote but I doubt if many of those folk would call themselves believers in the British cause. Most of them were just fed up with life in a dismal democracy with built-in poverty and automatic privilege for the few.

The numbers who appear to be moving into the Yes zone in the opinion polls will be a scatter gun of the politically uncommitted, soft Unionists and the self-interested who suddenly see funding drying up for their personal interests. On which point I happen to know there was a scary amount of I’m All Right Jack in the university sector from some who would otherwise regard themselves as radicals at Scottish referendum time. They bought the line that funding would be cut and inter-university exchange trips would be jeopardised by Barroso so voted No. That looks small-minded and short-sighted today.

There will be all kinds of people reassessing their No vote in the light of the uncertainty of Brexit and the, at least temporary, sliding economic figures and forecasts. There’s only so long you can hang on to the idea that Britain knows best. Do you still believe Alistair and Gordon had the best interests of the country at heart now they’re swimming in the tank with the sharks who started the financial crash in the first place? Is the fall in the oil price really the only brake on your patriotism?

If the mood music remains the same and May presses ahead with our departure while her Atlanticist Brexit ministers preen and puff like buccaneers of capitalism, disillusion will grow with the old Westminster-led project. If the reaction in Brussels toward the UK remains spiteful and resentful with a theme of punishment, then the choice for Scots will crystallise. (I harbour a thought that it might not need much more than intelligence and goodwill to prevent Brexit happening at all – subjects for future blogs.)

But I can see no earthly reason why any Scot who holds the UK in his heart and, despite everything, cleaves to it with the unshakeable faith of the stalwart, should desert her now. I’d be disappointed if they did. Having something to believe in is the reason for indy marches and demos to express the feeling of engagement and excitement that comes from shared purpose. I don’t know what Britnats do for fun – watch the Proms maybe. But then I do that.

I suspect an awful lot of those diehards are also emboldened by the feeling that they were cheated of their victory at the indyref. Everything has gone backwards at a rate of knots for them and now, like the nightmare of dread, they face potentially a second vote. The first referendum was like an emotional wringer for Unionists forcing them to confront issues of sentiment and loyalty they had spent their lives avoiding. They were made to feel unScottish by the welter of argument and eventually had to admit that they really didn’t believe in Scotland enough – enough to run its own affairs, raise its own taxes, stage parliamentary debates, forge international relations and generally not make a complete balls of it. It wasn’t nice for them.

They honestly thought September 2014 was the end. It was over – until it wasn’t. They now feel, I suspect, like a beleaguered minority who lose even when they win. That’s why they rallied in the Scottish elections to the best non-SNP candidate in so many seats. Their loyalty to Union was stronger than it was to party.

I don’t know if we can ever win over more than a few of the committed who became uneasy soon after indryref1 when talk about a second go started up. Whatever misgivings Yes had about pathetic vows and broken promises and rejected amendments, to them this was cheating. It was undemocratic and lacked respect for the process and the people’s decision. I doubt if they’re impressed by the idea that Brexit has changed everything – they heard the demands for a second referendum well before the European vote even took place.

I don’t think the Unionists are truly represented by Torrance and Mccolm and the usual agitators. There are too many of them to be described in simplistic terms. On our side we demean them too easily. There is even a need to understand more deeply what motivates continuing No voters which is why I argued that the SNP budget, by not increasing higher level taxes, was an astute move. It makes it clear that all Scotland is included and while cybernats demand we hammer the middle class, it is the SNP that better understands the prejudices and drivers of those yet to be convinced.

I accept I too can only oversimplify but on the other hand, I’m trying. There is always a way – just as Brexit itself can be avoided with understanding and goodwill, so there must be a route to Yes for at least some of the remaining Unionists. If they can’t make it over, at least I can understand. I wouldn’t sell Scotland out at any price.

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