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Monday, 24 October 2016

Brexit, Flexit, EFTA, indyref2, Nicola, Theresa - and that manifesto commitment

Political parties can review manifesto commitments if there's a material change of circumstances - but SNP's in 2015 on a possible Brexit is about a material change!

BBC News at One: #Nicola in Downing Street with devolved nations on #Brexit options Theresa May set to reject flexible Brexit deal for Scotland

I can live with EFTA and independence in a sovereign country free to join EU. I can't live with EFTA under UK. I want #indyref2 to be called. Scotland is being taken out of EU against my will as an SNP voter, and EFTA membership doesn't cut it for me. But I'm one voter, one voice

I voted SNP to remain in the EU, not to join EFTA Here's the manifesto commitment I voted on.

The SNP Manifesto commitment

Read it carefully - it's that 'or' word after the dash that's the essence - we don't need "sustained evidence" of a majority - just an EU Brexit

We ARE being taken out of EU against our will. I voted SNP to remain in the EU, not to join EFTA

The European Union is very much more than EFTA. I voted to Remain in the EU and for #indyref2 if UK took us out of EU against our will. I didn't limit it to remaining in the single_market.

Stephen answers the question that Angus Robertson sidestepped. Jo Coburn ".enough to say you wouldn't call #infyref2? Stephen Gethins "Of course …"

The Two Tier Brexit

JO COBURN: "Unrealistic demands"? Will it kill #indyref2?

STEPHEN GETHINS: “Of course …”

In the unlikely event that Nicola gets some kind of two-tier Brexit, will it kill #indyref2? If it does, does it mean we're in UK for ever? A flexible two-tier Brexit must be our minimum, Union-breaker demand.

But Theresa May knows that granting one is, de facto, the end of Union. She will almost certainly reject Nicola's bid for a flexible Brexit deal -  a Flexit or offer a meaningless fudge.The pattern was set during indyref1 campaign: UK and UK media ignore Scots until they're seen as a threat, then offer a bone, then pull the bone back when Scots settle down.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

A nuclear reflection – too big a topic to call a Witter …

Philips O’Brien, an American, is Professor of Strategic Studies at the University of St. Andrews. He has formerly argued for Scotland in NATO (2012) and for Scotland retaining nuclear weapons after independence. It would be unkind – and possibly inaccurate - to suggest that Strategic Studies (or ‘Peace’ Studies) in any of UK’s universities rarely attract anti-nuclear weapons unilateralist academics, and equally unkind to suggest that were there such academics, it would be vanishingly unlikely that they would secure a place in St. Andrews University.

Nevertheless, Philips O’Brien made an interesting and relevant point recently. It’s set out in a special report by Andrew Learmonth in today’s Sunday Herald, in a print edition headline that captures the essence of what follows (a rarity in these’' ‘spin-by-headline’ dog days of Scottish print journalism) - UK's waning influence in Europe 'may soften US independence view'.

However, Philips O’Brien position on the nuclear and the independence issues is clearly evident in this quote from his article on the SNP’s position on NATO and nuclear weapons during the lead up to the 2014 YES campaign and Referendum

“It [SNP] was torn between supporting a vocal section of its electorate that was so anti-nuclear and unilateralist that it not only worried many moderate Scots, who consistently are pro-Nato, but also many of the UK’s closest European defence partners”

I don’t quarrel with his summation of the SNP’s spring 2012 position, leading up to the knife-edged, passionate debate on NATO at the October 2012 Conference vote on NATO. I do take issue with the pejorative description of those in the Scottish YES electorate and in SNP membership opposed to weapons of mass destruction and Scotland’s membership of a first-strike nuclear alliance, NATO, as  “a vocal section of its electorate and those in favour of NATO membership, some of whom are in favour of nuclear ‘deterrence’ by WMD as “moderate Scots”.

Moderate? Are you serious, Philips O’Brien?

I regard them as, at best, seriously under-informed Scots, totally lacking in the ability to truly envisage the near-inevitable consequences of their position and, at worst, as Scots with no concept of ethics or morality about the potential mass incineration of millions of their fellow human beings in a mutually destructive global conflict that would almost certainly end civilisation as we know it and pollute the planet and all life on it for a thousand years or more.

Most informed political and military commentators at the highest levels across the globe believe we are closer to such a nuclear conflict than we have been since the Cuban Missile Crisis of the 1960s.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

The Daily Witter Three - Seeing into the mind of Nicola on #indyref2

What’s Nicola’s game plan? Does she want #indyref2 or not? Will she call it or won’t she? Is her Holyrood Cabinet behind her? Are her Westminster MPs behind her? Is the Party of one mind or two – or more?

For the faithful, such questions are either dangerous or even shouldn’t be asked at all. Absolute loyalty and unquestioning trust is expected, even demanded. For non-SNP YES voters they are legitimate, but even there, some might consider them unwise.

Talking to people at Conference, where there is a certain pressure to show the flag and sustain a positive mood, there was a wariness to essay a view, but there were notable exceptions to this, including on the platform. There is by no means unanimity on Brexit and the single market, never mind on the strategy being pursued, and the Leavers among party members were a country mile away from recanting on their June 23rd vote, indeed the ones I talked to were resolute in defending their choice.

I do not claim to know the mind or negotiating game plan of Nicola – I can only speculate, based on her public statements going back to the 2015 Manifesto launch at the International Climbing Centre, the 2015 general election campaign, the 2016 Holyrood campaign, the 2016 Spring Conference and last week’s conference in the SECC Glasgow.

My speculative analysis was set out at some length on this blog and pursued on Twitter in the context of #indyref2.

But if you need certainty and reassurance, I can refer you to Wee Ginger Dug, Paul Kavanagh, who seems to know the mind of Nicola and expounds on it with total confidence in The National p16 October 19th – and he certainly expresses what large number of YES supporters want to believe, if my Twitter analysis of their tweets is accurate.

Paul’s analysis is what I too want to believe, but I lack his certainty because I believe it is inconsistent with much of what Nicola has said or signalled to date – as opposed to what many thought she said because that’s what they wanted to hear.

But I hope Paul is right – that Nicola is simply exhausting all avenues in seeking an accommodation on Scotland and the EU over Brexit with this appalling Tory Government and PM because she has to be seen to do so, but is in fact headed inexorably for #indyref2.

The scenario that terrifies me is that she is offered - and settles for - some kind of fudge on the single market, and in the process kills any prospect of Scotland’s independence for the foreseeable future - which is bleak and may get even bleaker.

I voted for independence and I voted for Scotland remaining in the European Union. I voted for a nuclear-free Scotland. 

I know that Nicola wants all of these things and I hope that, with all her superb statesmanship and pragmatism, she keeps those three over-arching goals as her guiding beacons while juggling the realpolitik.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

The Daily Witter Two - Preaching to the Converted and to True Believers

Sometimes political parties emerge from mass movements - the party is created to serve the mass movement, e.g. The Labour Party.

Sometimes a mass movement appears within a political party, for example. Trumpism within Republicanism.

Sometimes politicians create a mass movement and call the result a party – e.g. Farage and UKIP.

Some political parties have never been mass movements, but were created by a motivated minority to serve their core political and policy objectives.

I’m not a political analyst or historian, so there are doubtless many other categories – and some may challenge those above and the examples offered.

But my point is this in relation to Scottish Indy politics, autumn 2016: the SNP did not create the YES Movement but, to a significant degree, the YES Movement created the SNP’s staggering electoral success and mass membership from late September 2014 and the position it holds now.

The reality is that the SNP created over decades the climate for YES, created its precarious minority government in 2007, and by its boldness - Alex Salmond’s boldness – gave form, meaning and hope to an inchoate desire for independence among many hitherto non-politicised Scots, and a focus and direction to the egalitarian, republican aims of the smaller socialist parties and to many activists within the other parties.

To a very large degree, the exponential growth of YES after May 2007, culminating in the SNP’s landslide victory in May 2011 was a pleasant surprise to the party, and its growth and diversity during the 2013/2014 Referendum Campaign a source of delight, tempered by some apprehension and not a little confusion, both manifesting themselves in YES Scotland’s difficulties and successes.

The explosion of YES and SNP membership after September 18th 2014 astonished the SNP and owed little to SNP HQ and everything to the spontaneous reaction of the Scottish YES electorate to defeat. The SNP were unprepared for it – they capitalised rapidly on the popularity of the new Leader, Nicola Sturgeon by mass rallies and Conferences and by the 2015 Election Manifesto launch for the 2015 General election but were totally unprepared for the impact of mass membership on the branch structures, failed, and are still failing to capitalise on that unique opportunity.

Despite reaping the huge benefits of May 2015 and May 2016 electoral success, the Party shows little signs centrally of understanding the twin phenomena that have so dramatically elevated their profile and standing in UK politics: the election of a truly exceptional leader with a new and unique kind of political charisma, Nicola Sturgeon – and the acquisition of a new kind of member/ follower – the True Believer.

Unless SNP HQ and the party managers reach a better understanding of how to deal with this unique mass movement, improve their communications through the lynchpins of branch structures with them, and acknowledge the debt they owe to the non-party organisations and social media activists and groups that do know how to communicate with them, the Party will experience another very auld Scottish phenomenon – the melting of snaw aff dykes.

Promulgating a grand narrative of caution, long-term gradualism and adaptation to existing constitutional power structures, however politically justified, to a mass movement consisting significantly of impatient true believers in a time of rampant UK, European and global uncertainty and near-chaos runs very obvious risks.

Maybe more tomorrow …

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

The Daily Witter - a pilot blog format, maybe first and last!

I’ve been blogging for around eight years, and between old and new, live and deleted, have written well over a million words. Initial driver was to fill the aching gap that existed in the media from 2007 up to the advent of Sunday Herald as indy backer, then The National, and now many fine bloggers and new reporters, columnists, Common Weal et al.

But of late, almost all that I wanted to say was being said, better than I could say it – so I focused on Twitter (72k tweets to date)  and my YouTube channel, TAofMoridura

Despite the many virtues of Twitter (for me, enforced brevity being the main one!) I do feel the urge to ramble in a stream of consciousness mode at more length, with all the risks that it entails, so here goes …


I attend my first SNP Conference – or at least sampled it - on Friday and Friday evening at my hotel, The Village. I decided to just wander and watch proceedings in the hall from outside on the many monitors. I was there on a Guest pass, not as a delegate, so I had no voting responsibilities. I had many interesting chance meetings and conversations, including with George Kerevan MP, Richard Walker, editor and journalist extraordinaire, Peter A. Bell and Dennis Webster, a very quick word with Sandra White MSP, who had actually read my book, and Mhairi Black MP, who had started it! My branch colleague, Mary Knox kept me on the straight and narrow (knowing my loose cannon tendencies) and explained the more arcane points of Conference procedures and etiquette.

The only social event in my hotel was the SNP Youth karaoke – not a sensible place for an old jazzer and sax player whose singing repertoire is more or less confined to the Great American Songbook and one or two Jurassic Park early rock standards that I played with Alex Harvey’s Kansas City Counts in the late ‘fifties. But I bought a couple of tickets anyway as a contribution to SNP Youth funds.

I met Roger Mullin MP coming out of the Village Hotel and he said he might try the karaoke later, so I decided to go.  Presenting myself nervously at the door, I duly had a red SNP sign inscribed on my wrist, and on asking the young lady collecting tickets if they let old men in, she responded cheerfully “So long as they’ve bought a ticket”. (I left my spare ticket for Roger Mullin, but if he came, it must have been after I left.)

I then had a very stimulating and enjoyable conversation with a young SNP youth activist – a physics and astronomy undergraduate - until a giant in gold lamé appeared – or rather exploded on to the stage. From then on the decibel level increased alarmingly, and a range of karaoke performers did their bit, ranging from the superb to the excruciating, which is what karaoke (‘empty – or missing -  voice’) is all about. I left about ten – it was very pleasant while it lasted, but I was clearly a fish out of his own pond and comfort zone and thought it best to leave.

The hotel was excellent, the staff were great, but I fought my usual hotel wars with the television and central heating – and lost. The bed was the largest bed I have ever slept in – I kept my compass beside me just in case I got lost in it during the night. I left early on the Saturday because my family were arriving on a visit at home.

I had the Conference experience – I loved it. As for the politics – well, if I do more daily wittering, I’ll maybe say a bit about that tomorrow …

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Sunday’s tweets @moridura - #indyref2

"There must be a threat, there must be a risk, there must be a price for Britain's actions." French President Francois Hollande. #indyref2

As the sole united, competent political party in UK, the #SNP has never been better placed to initiate a lead a campaign for independence.

#Iain_Macwhirter "Britain, for centuries a land identified with liberal internationalism has turned into an international pariah."

There comes a time when the prudent, responsible response is to ACT and act fast, not postpone action till some imagined stable future point

Are we hoping Theresa's ill-begotten team will negotiate a deal that safeguards Scotland's interests? Or that EU will ride to our rescue?

If the slow, careful plans for independence seem to be rolling off the table, it's because the inclination of the UK ship is straight down.

Scotland isn't perceived as either responsible or cautious by May's Govt.
It's regarded as neutered in protecting its interests by #indyref1

Scotland's a small country in an unstable UK, European and global political climate. It can't remain shackled to a UK in political chaos.

When endangered by a rash political enemy, elimination of risk in responding is not a feasible strategy. The biggest risk is risk avoidance.

Nicola walks carefully across the Brexit abyss towards - what?Peter Curran added,

I can't believe there's "there isn't really a team Sturgeon" (Gerry Hassan). But there are inevitable tensions over #indyref2 balancing act

Waiting for Brexit is not like waiting for Godot. Godot never came: #Brexit will, and be as bad or worse than we can imagine. Call #indyref2
"We can't afford to lose a second independence referendum"
We can't afford to stand impotently and watch this Tory regime destroy #Scotland

I'm not part of any "fundamentalist wing" of SNP (there isn't one) but I believe we should set a date for enabling the #indyref2 process now

IainMacwhirter: "Support for Better Together's 'caring sharing' UK fatally undermined."
If it has, why no #indyref2?

Thinking the achievement of a country's independence can be a seamless, risk-free process is either naivety or close to political cowardice.

#SNP_Conference will be an important counterweight to the “narrow minded xenophobia” of the #Tories and the “rank incompetence” of #Labour

Tories take England’s #NHS on a path towards their ideological goal of privatisation by increasing spend on agency staff to over £4 billion

Tory-controlled #NHS in #England spending significant and increasing sums of money on agency and temporary staff.

Tory-controlled #NHS in England spending significant and increasing sums of money on agency and temporary staff: 8% of its staff expenditure

Sunday Politics Scotland: Brexit and #indyref2 - two journos get it wrong!

Nobody wants "a referendum tomorrow" (Lindsay McIntosh) - debate is between wait till UK does its #Brexit worst  or  set #indyref2 date soon

There is no "fundamentalist wing" (Kevin McKenna) of SNP. Two wings, both flying towards #independence. Difference only on timing #indyref2

#SCOTSMAN SNP supporters ‘don’t want to rush’ [#indyref2] … Is this a true reflection of Sheppard supporters' views?

Last bit of #SPScotland matters because of subject matter, - not because two journalists are getting their analyses right. They're not ...

Corbyn restated his opposition to independence but said he hoped left-leaning supporters of the Yes campaign would be tempted to back Labour

Voters may legitimately express indignation and outrage. They voted for #politicians to consider take action - not to mirror their emotions.
Ultimately indignation and outrage are the least productive of political emotions. From politicians, a mask to hide absence of action plans.

#SundayPoliticsScotland shed about as much light on #Brexit with Tomkins/Gethins discussion as a guttering torch bulb. G-sus! Do better, SPS

#DailyPolitics Iain Duncan Smith - the embodiment of bland Tory glibness, utterly detached from any political reality. #Brexit

I think it might have, but they certainly fuelled Tory division and panic - never hard to do ...Peter Curran added,

#DailyPolitics Isabelle Oakeshott, recent sensationalist biographer of Cameron and pig heads - Andrew Neil's favourite Daily Mail journalist

UKIP gets massive media coverage, but not because they matter politically. SNP is the party that has and WILL change UK politics permanently

Lewd Donald Trump Tape Is a Breaking Point for Many in the G.O.P.
Only because he got caught: there spoke an authentic Republican macho male

Corbyn delivered a lecture in memory of late Jimmy Reid.
Jimmy Reid joined SNP, Jeremy: stayed with it. He wouldn't have been "wooed back".

#Jazz MARR: Ken Clarke on Jazz
Despite this, Marr went on to feature his usual end of show musical pap ...

Peter Curran ‏@moridura  10h10 hours ago
"The purpose of a public school education is to teach you to respect people you don't respect." Jeremy Paxman's schoolmaster during a caning

Every time you stand for the Union, #Jeremy, you stand for #Trident, you stand for #Tory hegemony, and you stand against Scotland's interest
Reach out to Scots by all means, Jeremy - but NOT for the Union, NOT for Labour in Scotland, but for #England.

You let them down, let Republican Party down, let Americans down, let humanity and tolerance down every time you open your big mouth, Donald

We've never been closer to nuclear war since Cuban missile crisis. One miscalculation by US or Putin, one crucial incident, could trigger it

Listening to Marr and Fallon discussing the reality of a "looming nuclear war" chills my soul. #Scotland, YOU are a prime target! #indyref2

Be clear, #Corbyn: I support you for #England because you're their only option. NOT for Unionist Labour in #Scotland. Don't play that game!

So #John McCain dumps #Trump after sexist video? Did nothing else about this awful man bother you up to now, John?

I was ahead of the game with Referendum Murders creepy clown! … - … - … -

Tory says Amber Rudd's plan "worse than Donald Trump's plan to ban Muslims from USA and even compared it to the Nazi treatment of the Jews"

Sunday, 25 September 2016

#Indyref2 timing, political comment - and my Sunday tweets

I'm an SNP member (I hold no role in party or branch) and independence supporter. I speak as that, and as a Scottish voter. No more, no less.

I don't like former Cabinet Minister/former MSPs using terms like "headlong rush to disaster" and "glorious defeat" to my FM on #indyref2

I don't like  former SNP senior figures who argued for a profoundly destructive #Brexit urging caution and talking of "bravado forecasts" in the context of #indyref2’s timing.

I don't like "SNP deputy leader hopefuls" (SUNDAY HERALD) dismissing my wish for an early #indyref2 as "a toxic mix of machismo and clairvoyancy"

I was born five days after Spanish Civil War started, started school as Germany over-ran Europe. I saw the liberation of Europe and the Belsen and Auschwitz death camps in full graphic detail in Glasgow cinemas days after the events. I saw the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs dropped – and their horrific aftermath - in Glasgow cinemas days after the events. As a young married man with a pregnant wife, I held my breath during the Cuban Missile crisis.

I’ve observed every war since. I’ve seen every general election since and voted in most of them. I saw India's independence and NHS's birth. I saw the European Union’s birth.

I offer my little bio as evidence that I'm no fan of "headlong rush to disaster", "glorious defeat" or "machismo and clairvoyancy".

Commentators who urge only prudence and caution in pursuit of independence know little of history and even less about risk and uncertainty.

At this difficult and crucial time, our FM may reasonably expect her ministers, MSPs, MEPS and MPs to express their views privately to her.

At this difficult and crucial time for our FM, she may also reasonably expect voters to speak freely in any forum of their hopes and fears.