The Glittering Prize

I hesitate to say so because I don’t want to continue a hostile debate, but one of the consequences of not writing clearly enough is that it gives readers side tracks to run down. I accept this is my failure to explain myself. God knows I should get it right after 48 years.

First, I am not dictating anything. Can’t. Have no such intention…When I write words like: what we need to do, it’s me saying this is my personal opinion. It’s on my blog so that should be taken as read. I think some action or other might be a better approach and it’s something we can think about. I do not claim to be right. I do not claim authority over others who must pursue their objectives as they see fit.

I did not and do not say there is no bias at the BBC. But I am pointing out that many No voters don’t see bias, at least not in the blatant, one-eyed way many Yessers do. And I’m trying to understand the doubters’ perspective. It seems anyone questioning the deeply-held belief, that the BBC skews its coverage in one direction, is now treated like a heretic. Yet the inability to see another man’s point of view is a blindness that endangers our plans. The fury behind this is revealing and rather makes my point. Angry yelps of outrage at online headlines or throwaway words in live broadcasting – or maybe reacting to a weak interview – don’t impress swithering No voters that we are sensible and rational people ready to run a country.

The piece above here says we should not stop pointing out deficiencies and contradictions and things that look eerily like imbalance. It is this very ability that is the hallmark of Stuart Campbell who has made possibly the most influential contribution to the campaign of one individual outside the realms of payroll politics.

What I am doubting is the worth of a relentless barrage of BBC bias material to sway swing voters. As Angela Haggerty says, it also implies No folk aren’t clever enough to work it out for themselves…not a winning message, instead an insulting one. In fact, I credit them in the previous blog with the intelligence to assess both arguments and make up their mind based on the evidence. And it was on the hard evidence that we failed. So a nuts and bolts economic plan (coming to a studio near you soon – perhaps) should be accompanied by voices that make them welcome. Voters like to be lured, not grabbed by the throat.

I understand that many, probably most, No voters won’t switch, including the army of confirmed British nationalists who know who they are and what they want – and whom I respect for their conviction. I suspect many comments are aimed at this bloc of die-hards who are lost to us and will remain so. However, I’m talking about those who are sometimes looking for a reason to support independence and yet allow themselves to see only the negatives. A group of shrill voices claiming injustice and distracted by resentment – for that is how it can seem – gives them reason not to move over. At least it’s one reason.

And it doesn’t mean dull. The energy is needed and so is the colour but, at the risk of trivialising the cause, a marketing man would demand a change of tone and some new ideas before a product relaunch.

There is something in Doug Daniel’s question: Are we fighting against the BBC or are we fighting for independence? There is a glittering prize to be won and, make no mistake, when John Curtice opines that Scotland could assume the UK’s EU membership, its gleam is upon us. I want to be dazzled by the great prize, not blinded by resentment.

The first referendum was an emotional affair of the heart. (It wasn’t for No voters). That was indyref1 when we needed to give people the confidence in our country and belief in themselves. That was achieved. Now we need to demonstrate competence and rationality to cope with the technocratic issues of EU engagement, trade relations, currency and economic development. That I think is the key to winning next time. We’ve had the nationalist referendum. Now it’s time for the utilitarian referendum.

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Diplomatic Derek

As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted – this will send some into apoplexy. To all Nationalists I say, Come down off the ceiling. I’m not giving the BBC five stars for accuracy and I specifically don’t endorse all content. The clues are there in the text when I say I hear material that makes my hair stand on end and I state that continuing scrutiny is appropriate for an organisation we can’t avoid.

I appreciate all contributions and I respect strongly-held views that I know are shared way beyond any caricature of cybernats. Thanks for putting them down in print, although casting me as an apologist for the Beeb is a little off the mark since I have burned all bridges with them because of public attacks made on management and occasionally presenters. Indeed I left their employment in order to make my voice heard on independence which included detailed and coruscating analysis of their efforts – much to their discomfort. I have not been forgiven.

However, the point wasn’t so much to raise the chestnut of bias so much as to think how we might do Indyref Part Two differently. There are areas we need to finesse and some we might want to jettison. I doubt that the same approach will succeed a second time having failed first time round.

I was trying to open up an avenue to some of those we need to win over for a successful Yes, a constituency that includes a swathe of comfortable Scots. They were No voters not out love for the Union or opposition to the idea of a new Scotland but out of a sceptical examination of the independence case. I think this comes in two parts. The first stage is the technical argument – debt, credit-worthiness, currency, EU membership, international recognition, oil rights etc. The second level is sentiment (to use David Hume’s word). Do they feel good about joining the other side? At this point they have a problem. Don’t reach for the fireworks, but I reckon comfortable Mr and Mrs Scott don’t much fancy the look of the Yes movement. Kilts and painted faces are fine at Murrayfield. A sea of saltires is just too nationalist for them. I’m sure they know that all movements to succeed need a strong community base and foot soldiers do the work. They also know it’s possible they will decide to shift their vote. But they need to feel at ease doing so in a way they can tell friends and not be laughed at. That’s why the media linked Yes to the Scottish Resistance taking on Tunnocks Tea Cakes. It’s why they made up the threats to Murphy on his pathetic soap-box tour and exaggerated the activities of cybernats to associate them with Sturgeon. It’s because it repels ‘decent people’. And it does. Voters will always opt for what sounds reasonable over the hysterical. At times we sound hysterical. And continually calling out the BBC comes into this category. No matter how much evidence you present, they only hear BBC Bad. The Beeb remains one of the great institutions playing a key part in people’s lives. It doesn’t matter that it makes you spit and hyperventilate – many potential Yessers don’t buy the case and eye suspiciously those who constantly mount arguments against it. I accept that they will also question BBC output themselves and I don’t doubt they agree with some criticism. But mounting sustained campaigns as if everything they broadcast is misleading opens you up to the charge of extremism. They know the BBC covers positive SNP stories too as well as the decline of Labour. An anti-BBC campaign sounds if it doesn’t recognise the reality.

I’m saying this is really about tone. I now re-read everything I write through the eyes of a No voter who might switch. What puts me off? What can I agree with? The truth about politics in my experience is that polarity exists only at the edges. Between the two wings of any argument there is always so much more common ground than the noisy ends would have you believe. Indyref One was noisy because it was spontaneous and energised. We didn’t know the mistakes we were making. This time we have no such excuse. Without pretending to be something we are not, we need to rethink our positions and consider if there is a way to make the case more appealing. That may well mean less strident.

Some will think this sounds trivial, but it is what comes up in conversation. And it’s difficult to overstate the degree to which Sturgeon herself has changed the perception of Yes. Her appeal reaches wider than Salmond and speaks to a new normal. Lefty she may be but pragmatic decisions on, for example tax rates, transform her in the yes of comfy No folk into ‘a sensible woman in charge for a change.’

This is delicate territory as the political and cultural divide stretches wider between us and England. The fundamental strength of No – that we are basically the same as England – is curdling before our eyes. Otherwise staunch British supporters adopt a querulous tone…Jackie Kemp, the Daily Record, JK Rowling. In fact I saw a tweet from Rowling which entered my territory in this blog. She claimed there was still a blood and soil aspect to nationalism. I wrote a few blogs ago how this kind of language is a signal – it tells you she is reaching for extremism because her rational arguments are being dispelled. Like others, she now clings to the vestiges of zealotry to justify maintaining her position. If she sees enough evidence of what to her is a rational, sane and respectable case (self-defined), then I believe she can be moved.

That’s how we have to think. We ask ourselves what might work and what looks like it won’t. A bludgeon heavy with blame and resentment won’t do it.

Which takes me to my last point. One of the failings last time was a refusal to own up that the first years of independence would be tough – and largely unknown. Any new country will wrestle with questions until it finds its feet and will be buffeted by headwinds. It was unrealistic not to admit it and people instinctively knew that. (It would have made indyref2 much easier). We should do so this time and level with the No folk. If they are going to come over they need to feel in themselves they weren’t ‘wrong’ last time. They just disagreed. We have to say simply that we didn’t get it right and left the holes for them to pick at. Nobody wants to be humiliated. Instead, ask yourself if you’d rather be assured there were errors on both sides before you stepped over…so we have to find magnanimity.

Think of it as others just taking longer to get there than we did. The days of hitting them over the head are over. Yes, the case has to be made and done with energy and passion but we already have all the people that approach was going to attract. Our case is currently being made for us by a Tory government in London and a disappointingly ill-educated populace revealing a dark heart to England.

We’ll require diplomacy and nuance from now on. (I suggest to you…subtly)

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Up In Lights

The Yes movement at war…or is it handbags? The billboards campaign again exposes that we don’t all think alike. There’s a surprise. The fundraiser to mount hoardings across the country accusing the BBC of ‘misreporting Scotland’ has run into headwinds from those who don’t like the message.

And I’m one of them.

The clear message conveyed is that all this is deliberate. And organised. It is part of a plan to tilt opinion against the SNP and independence. BBC journalists are willing participants or perhaps convenient stooges implementing a master plan. In short it is a conspiracy. In this he is backed by other members of the infromscotland group.

The trouble with this analysis is simple. It’s not true. It’s not true and it’s not possible. Anyone with common sense or any experience inside an organisation understands there is a collective ethos or corporate mindset and subconsciously follows it – which does happen at the BBC whose origins, management configuration and internal protocols tend towards reflecting a status quo. In this case that means Britain. This idea of conveying the coherence of the UK is now written into the new charter settlement. It means that when there is a threat to the status quo, as there was in the 90’s over a Scottish Six, the Director General went to the Prime Minister to move jointly against it in case it threatened the Union. Which makes you think about the indyref…

But that’s not the same thing as journalists conspiring to twist announcements to read like criticisms of the SNP. That needs a structure in which word comes down through layers of staff to the journalists. It means telling a journalist what to say or what to write even against his better judgment. It means over 200 staff keeping quiet and never spilling the beans. It suggests all staff are party to an undeclared plan and word doesn’t leak out. Nobody complains. Everybody is malleable or has no political views of their own. (I take some responsibility here having revealed the doubtful dealings of the head of news with the Labour Party but the point was to ensure that contact stopped. In other words a BBC journalist objecting to any possible interference.)

The anti BBC outlook is insulting to the people working there and I’m always uncomfortable about the demonisation of individuals. Jackie Bird for example is one of the most professional presenters of an early evening news programme the BBC has ever had. For 20 years and more she has anchored the show and read the cues and occasional questions written for her. She does not determine content let alone political direction. She doesn’t arch her eyebrow or spit out Sturgeon’s name as some suggest in order to imply criticism. But just writing those words will send some into apoplexy.

On-air people love the recognition (oh yes they do) and are normally handsomely remunerated so they can take the flak. But it’s an unattractive trait to blame presenters and reporters as individuals for failings that can be institutional and – in my experience – caused by poor management, resourcing and staff cuts. I know that will never cover every questionable slice of output and when I listen I still hear stuff that makes my hair stand on end. Mostly it’s poor journalism from people who should know better and as soon as I hear it, I know what the BBC critics will make of it. The corporation is its own worst enemy and its unending silent response to criticism doesn’t work in the modern social media forum.

So scrutiny of the BBC as the main information source and the one we are obliged to pay for, is legitimate and appropriate. But do we need a hoardings campaign to reinforce it?

I share the view that the next stage of the indy campaign will have to learn lessens from the past. It will need refinement and radical change. Some things we cherish may have to be re-thought. For example? Well, if you speak to No folk now in doubt and toying with transferring over, you’ll find they are uncomfortable with the flag-waving and kilty apparel of demos. But surely that’s who we are! That’s true and we shouldn’t pretend to be what we are not. Yet it remains true that doubters are put off by blatant nationalist signalling because they want to feel they make a rational choice not a crude, saltire-faced one. They don’t want to be associated with anything that’s easily mocked. So do we tell them to get lost or do we reconsider? (I know there are bigger considerations like the oil price but never underestimate the importance of detail).

I think the anti-BBC case has been exhausted. My heart fell when I say the campaign because it sounds like beating a drum to death. People have got the message and those who are suspicious of the BBC will carry on being so. But for many, it remains trusted and respected and when they see the giant hoardings questioning their judgment it tells them this is the work of obsessives. That’s how it’s seen and it won’t convince anyone to switch their vote.

Also, if we are to win, a day will come when the BBC will report how opinions are moving and how impressive Sturgeon is in Brussels and Berlin. Programmes will be made showing us how Scotland might become the 28th member instead of the UK. What do we say then about the journalists telling us a story that suits our narrative? Are they still distorting the truth or are they now to be trusted? The seeds of suspicion are firmly rooted.

Still, I think we should all do what we think is the best thing and I probably wouldn’t have mentioned the billboards except I was somehow linked to it. So to be clear, I don’t support the idea and have asked not to be mentioned as a site author or source as that is clearly taken as endorsement. (Links I don’t mind since all my material is out there and open to all). But nor do I disrespect people for doing it.  Actually, I might put that on a billboard

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‘Tea and Two Sugars Dave’

I caught part of the STV programme last night assessing the success of the SNP and the two years since the referendum. It had relaxed and self-effacing contributions from Alex Salmond – who seemed to be seated in front of his rooftop pool in Aberdeen – Elaine C Smith and Tom Harris. On a box on the wall looking like a demented owl, was David Mundell in Westminster.

The others gave perspective to recent history and analysed more or less fairly. Most of Mundell’s effort was straight from media training – forget the question and keep giving out the message in each answer. With growing low-level hysteria he ranted about the dangers of a second referendum – ‘divisive and dangerous’ etc. Watching him it set my gas at a peep to think this one man embodies the British state in our country. Westminster still retains all of the power encompassed by Crown in Parliament. He outranks everybody else except the Queen (no, I don’t mean Elaine C).

He is a man whom nobody would promote in a normal legislature except as a bag carrier. His sole status guarantees him a job. That job always required balance, integrity and a measure of genuine statecraft to do properly – one reason George Younger and Malcom Rifkind did it so well while Helen Liddell and John Reid didn’t. Balancing the interests of London and Scotland requires clout in Cabinet. That means ministers listen and never automatically discount what is said. It means they recognise that real concessions, not just gestures, are required. It also means that, out of respect for the incumbent, ministers will do their best to accommodate his demands. It doesn’t mean you always win, far from it. Younger fought against the closure of Ravenscraig, made sure the Press knew about it, and threatened to resign. It was reported that he had a secret deal with Thatcher to contest industrial closures. Now I know this looks devious – and he did misjudge the poll tax – but it shows he had clout with Thatcher, was trusted and went on to stay in Cabinet as Defence Secretary. Gentleman George gave the impression of fighting Scotland’s corner which is at least one of the tools of politics.

What of Mundell? What corner does he contest? Who gives the merest hint of respect for him? He is told he will only attend Cabinet Brexit meetings when required. (Thank you, Dave. Tea and two sugars.) That alone should be the cause of a resignation threat appearing in the media. Isn’t that what even Tories would want?

He is a token presence speaking to the desperate lack of talent in parties in decline. Twenty years ago the SNP was blessed with an upper layer of good performers and a base element of street-pounders. But a middle management echelon of busy creatives with ambition was absent – they were all joining Labour. Now, when you look at who is standing against the SNP, you can see why they do so poorly. It isn’t just the party brands that are in retreat. A shrinking party gets smaller talent.

So here we have a man scraping through on an 800 majority, bought by diverting party funds away from other seats. He spent three times his SNP rival and more than all the other candidates put together. He spent 90 per cent of the legal maximum and was bankrolled by party HQ in their desperation to keep a single seat in Scotland.

Since 1997 the Tories have had either no MP at all or a solitary representative in Scotland and yet the democratic deficit delivers them all the control over the Scots that the British state bestows.

That the government’s man cuts such an unimpressive figure is a constant reminder of how slender the British mandate is. Asked by Smith if the Tories hadn’t fought against a parliament in the first place, he replied that it was a sign of their willingness to accept the election result that they played their part now. But that hides the central point – that the Tories made a monumental mistake in opposing devolution, a mistake endorsed by history. If they can misread the country so badly once, what stops them doing so again? The reality is that if the Tories had their way, there would be no Holyrood at all. In fact, there would be no Tory Party as such either since the PR system gave them oxygen and resources to save their skin.

And so we were treated to another mealy-mouthed performance insisting there should be no referendum. What I wanted to ask was: If we forget about that option and if Scotland as whole really doesn’t fancy the May Brexit deal, what does he propose we do? It is entirely possible that business, public sector, third sector, civil and collective Scotland combine with four out of five political parties in opposing the British Brexit deal. What does the man with all the power in Scotland suggest we do?

The Scottish input is clearly going to be marginal and the acceptance of our ideas limited. Brexit will not reflect our views – does not reflect our views. It is already a measure the nation has decisively voted against.

I repeat. How does the British government’s man advise us to proceed?

The answer is as it has always been. We must do as we are told. There is no escape route for, of course the Scots voted to stay in the UK and that must be respected (even if the Remain in the EU vote isn’t). The limit of Mundell’s vision is a suicide pact with England. At any cost, we remain united – until death us do part. That’s his recommendation. Take what you’re given and shut up. That’s what he’s here for – to convey the Brit message. The bag carrier delivers.

Remember David will be fine. There’s always a gilded life for retired politicians via the burgeoning Lords, directorships and grace-and-favour. No income cuts for him. No job loss. No problems with higher interest rates. That’ll be for the rest of us to bear.

How this represents protecting Scotland’s interest, I’m at a loss to say. In truth, no sane Scot claims it is in our national interest. Mundell is doing as he’s told. He has no separate vision for Scotland, no sense of responsibility beyond saving his job. This is not a good look for British interests in Scotland which doesn’t even have a normal shadow secretary of state either. It’s as if reality was mimicking the satire we have made of our UK government. Where once we had comparative giants in the shape of Younger and Dewar speaking for Scotland as leadership figures, now we have a makeweight jobsworth and a Northern MP nobody’s heard of. This is all heading in one direction…

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I Agree with Bateman

Consensus is breaking out all over. According to some, we all agree we need a federal solution for Scotland. According to others, a second indyref is inevitable. And according to me, there are straws in the wind that outright resistance to independence is slowly melting. OK, it may not be a consensus yet, but at least I agree with me. And I’ve got as strong grounds as any of the others for my claim.

I’m going to make a nuanced distinction here. I know – not my strong point. It’s that the opinion polls are finding maybe a one in 10 switch to Yes because of Brexit, not a lot, although mathematically it might be enough to swing the result. Now it looks as if this is a canny calculation by doubters who want to see the colour of the Brexit money first. Classically: What’s in it for me?

But I think this may be hiding a deeper question which is eating into the psyche of resistant Scots who have been happy to regard their dual nationality as a comfortable fit – Scottish and British (although in reality, if a No voter, then Britain first).

For them it is becoming increasingly difficult to dismiss criticism of the British government as rabble-rousing, grievance-stirring or point-scoring. The language and decision-making which would previously have been excused on the grounds that everyone makes an occasional mistake, is no longer acceptable to them. In other words, the sensible, compliant, middle-of-the-road Scots who have been the backbone of No, are eyeing London suspiciously. They are asking: What the hell are they doing now?

Because sensible, compliant, middle-of-the-road Scots know which side their bread is buttered. Their professional lives have been spent inside the EU. Their jobs regularly abut EU conventions and protocols. They and their colleagues travel to Europe or they meet European colleagues here. If they’re in the Edinburgh financial sector which voted convincingly No, they see unfolding a corporate nightmare threatening not just some vague slice of GDP, but their own job and prospects. Arriving in London, they feel a new sensation of estrangement. Every other face and voice is non-indigenous. What are they all thinking and what will happen to them? They wonder: Which idiot is responsible for this?

The university staff who bought the line that an indy Scotland wouldn’t get research funding now know of people and projects losing exactly that. There is a growing sense that coming out of Europe is a more cataclysmic leap than independence. They hadn’t realised just how tied we were to Europe and how comfortable they had become with that extra layer of identity that made them Europeans.

They listen with increasing horror to the bluster and bravado of Brexit ministers exposed as both hypocrites in the case of Johnson and flat-earth adventurers in that of Fox. All three of the Leave Musketeers are wreathed in smiles to disguise their confusion – a trio of political narcissists as the national interest is jeopardised.

Sensible people do not see sure-footedness, let alone competence. There is nothing reassuring about the months of delay in working out a negotiating position as the better-informed Press reveals the back-biting and deep disagreements at the heart of May’s government.

And there is something else. They are acutely aware of how their own country – the UK – is now viewed across the continent. The focus on immigrants as the defining issue is understood at one level because people know uncontrolled immigration cannot be sustained but what are they supposed to feel about Francois in Personnel and Stanislaw in Accounts? The government they have supported has refused to guarantee them the lives they have made here – the homes, the social scene, the partners and – my God – the children. How can they doubt that the vicious rhetoric unleashed during the campaign gave a green light to the thugs and bigots? There is the repellent rage on Question Time which boos a Polish woman resident for 23 years. There is the football hooligan tone of working class Brits demanding: Let’s just get out now, to cheers. Weren’t they the people of Hartlepool, as damned an outpost of dysfunctional Britain as any, who will be the same community to suffer most when GDP falls and budget cuts have to be made? Is the government making a special case for low earners in Hartlepool to remain in the single market or is that for the bankers?

Many voters have taken for granted that Britain was what the Whitehall elite claimed, a power broker embedded at the heart of western culture. So why was the Prime Minister quietly sidelined in Brussels, leading UK diplomats to complain of her treatment when given five minutes at 1 am to speak and then listened to in silence?

The sense is that Britain really has done it this time. We’ve gone too far. That airy contempt for Brussels and the casual superiority that is the stamp of leadership Brits has led us over the cliff edge. The No voter scoffed at the door-stop indyref white paper but where is even the A4 of the Leavers to show us their plan? For probably the first time in their lives, those who viewed the British government and parliament as automatically superior in content and competence have it revealed to them as nothing of the kind. And it may well be themselves who pay the price.

You don’t have to switch to Yes to smell the stench of xenophobia emanating from sections of society in the south…from lists of foreign workers (gastarbeiters) to replacing doctors with ‘our own’ – and from checking incomers’ teeth (after demanding to see their papers) to obstructing the entry of a mere 70 orphans from a squalid campsite. New arrivals are humiliated by a baying crowd of tabloid hacks waiting to photograph their faces and guess at their age. Sensible Scotland may not appreciate all immigration and may think Sturgeon is virtue signalling on inclusion, but it sure doesn’t like to be branded racist. Thank goodness, it says, that some politicians in Europe understand that we are different.

Making foreigners pay for health care, preventing students working and rejecting employee rights and citizen benefits to make way for a Fortress Britain is taking the British Tories from the outer edges of UKIP to the fringe of National Front when it is combined with naked xenophobia and the coincidental anti-gay filibuster to stop the pardons of historical homosexual ‘crimes’.

This is not the Conservatism I grew up observing. Tories were respectable, for sure, but they were considerate of the less fortunate, they upheld British traditions without denigrating others (that’s why Powell was sacked) and, as the name implies, they were cautious of change that threatened the things they held dear. They also believed in thrift when Scots had the best savings ratio in the UK. None of that applies to today’s febrile neo cons whose hallmark is demonisation of the poor and the foreign, the accumulation of mountainous debt, both sovereign and personal, with an irresponsible lack of concern for the national interest.

It is, I agree, a leap from all this to independence and one does not lead easily to the other although I find it informative that the Tories in Scotland now have a single theme – apart from promoting Ruth’s light entertainment career. It is to stop another referendum. You can smell the fear. But surely my sensible Scot will also be asking what then is the Tory response to Brexit? Does anyone in Scotland think Ruth has any influence over the process? Or does Mundell (we’ll call you when we need you, David)? Are we to cling to London when the parachute fails to open and hope for the best?

They write off Labour as useless and find nowhere to turn. So they conclude a decision can wait. And those canny Scots may be right. The (for me) irrational terror of independence is a powerful motivator leading to a frantic search for an alternative. It won’t be federalism because a) it makes too much sense and this government is light on the stuff, and b) they could have offered this at any time in the last 20 years and settled the constitutional question for a generation. The only time federalism will be offered to the Scots is after they have voted for independence.

No, I think the best hope lies in Europe’s reaction to Brexit. So far it looks as though the UK’s rejection has strengthened the institutions by reminding them of what they are for and bringing them together in a united front against our departure. The talks will throw up hard choices and among the strong advocates for continued formal association will be the City, big business, academia, Scotland and Northern Ireland, not forgetting the Republic. These lobbies will be closer to the EU negotiating stance than the UK’s allowing the Brussels team to play them off. It will become clear just how narrow a view the official UK position is and May’s team will be inclined in any case to back single market involvement of some of these sectors.

A loud and vociferous campaign in Scotland running alongside the talks will focus minds in European capitals on how they got into this mess in the first place – by ignoring the people. A side effect will be a return to what used to be a guiding principle – subsidiarity – and nothing could symbolise that better than separate recognition of Scotland (and Ulster). The argument against that kind of domestic ‘interference’ is that the EU has to respect the national government but I fear there will be little enough of that for a country causing so much division and upset mainly for internal party political purposes.

And I’m glad Sturgeon has taken time to mention the critical reason for our EU membership, at least for me. It is solidarity with Europe. We aren’t in just because it’s a market, that’s a Tory re-writing of history. We’re in because we share a continent and a worldview. We’re in because we care about each other. Setting standards benefits us all, let’s us share more equally. We redistribute wealth to the poorer. It floats all boats. It blurs the lines of independence but retains individual national traditions. It lets different people share the advantages. It builds in peace to a continent once scarred by conflict. The EU is one of mankind’s great achievements.

I expect this to become clearer to the British as the talks proceed because our political class has failed to make the case and always resented the shift in power (MEPs have no right of access to Westminster) while the media has failed in its duty to inform, instead making a pantomime villain out of a Brussels that never existed.

If enough is offered to Remainers like Scotland it will be both tricky and undemocratic of May’s side to resist – single market access for goods coming out of Scotland (the re-opening of ferry ports) and access for financial services in Edinburgh. There would be surrenders like farming and fishing but staying in would allow Scotland to operate more closely like a de facto EU country. Would it mean a hard border? In theory it would, but if there isn’t one with the Republic, it shows what can be done. It becomes possible to imagine a fully engaged statelet with direct channels to Brussels in which Scotland does its own thing in conjunction with the EU on all areas of competence. Over time, the idea of a separate entity seems natural, however complex the threads linking back to London. After all there are likely to be different arrangements, as there are now, for Gibraltar and Crown dependencies like Isle of Man and Jersey. And, who knows, it may accelerate the acceptance of Scotland as a well-run, viable country worthy of support. It is competence in government rather than nationalism which has driven the SNP to heights of popularity and proving we can do it for ourselves in the EU could be the way finally to convince the doubters (perhaps in contrast to the UK).

I think the sensible Scots are waiting to see and this time they are open to a fundamental shift simply because the UK has generated its own black hole of uncertainty. One way or another, the country is about to undergo existential change. Let’s get on the right side of the argument.

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