All posts by thomas

The independence campaign catch-22


Back in the early days of the first indyref, Yes Scotland designed some cards asking people to places themselves on an independence scale from 1 to 10, and they told us activists to knock doors, ask the questions and fill out the cards.

I did exactly that (being a bit literal-minded), but I soon realised that most other activists took it as an opportunity to talk to people about the benefits of independence. In retrospect, I think most of the conversions from No to Yes were due to these conversations — much more so than the targeted materials Yes Scotland will have sent to some people based on the classification on the cards.

I’m mentioning this because the SNP recently launched a huge National Survey that asks even more questions than the small cards Yes Scotland sent out, and they’re asking their members to get as many people as possible to answer the questions.

What I’m wondering is whether they just want us to go out and record the answers, or is it really just an excuse to campaign on the doorstep? If it’s the former, it won’t change many minds (but it might tell the SNP who the soft No voters are and where they live), but if it’s the latter, we really could do with some new pro-independence campaign materials to aid us in the conversations.

It’s really a catch-22. It would be easier to campaign if the campaign had been officially launched and we were backed up with materials and all that. Also, many people won’t change their opinion on independence before somebody talks to them — they won’t just have a eureka moment in the bath one morning. However, the SNP clearly doesn’t want to launch the campaign prematurely and there are many indications that nothing will happen before Yes has clearly overtaken No in the opinion polls. So opinion won’t shift before we start campaigning for real, but we won’t start campaigning before opinion has shifted.

This makes me think National Survey is probably a campaign in disguise. They hope that we will all campaign hard on the doorsteps while pretending it’s just a listening exercise, so that opinion shifts enough that the official campaign can start.

Perhaps it’s the right way forward, but annoyingly it means we’ll have to create campaign materials on our own instead of getting them from Yes Scotland II or the SNP. I just wish the real campaign would start, but then I’m of course really impatient given my status as an EU migrant.

I blame the spin doctors

Hypocrites and liars #1
Hypocrites and liars #1.
People have started talking about the post-factual society, mainly in despair. Basically voters have stopped listening to “facts” and will now form their opinion based on feeling, which is for instance why England voted in favour of Brexit in spite of practically all serious politicians and academics being against it.

It’s a natural development, however. When politicians started hiding behind spin doctors and got extremely good at never answering a question with a straight answer, at the same time as the media stopped doing costly investigative journalism and started reprinting press releases most of the time, things started falling apart.

Politicians and spin doctors might truthfully say that they never actually lie, but if they cover up their intentions up in so much spin that only the 2% of the population actually understand what they’re saying, they might as well be lying. For instance, if a politician makes it sound as if they’re about to restrict immigration, does it really matter they’re actually saying they’re unable to do so for many good reasons if hardly anybody gets it? If the vast majority of voters believe that the politician said they were going to restrict immigration, what will they think when the politician admits five years later that immigration figures are up instead? That the politician was lying, of course.

(Because of all grants academics have to apply for these days to keep their job, it’s now sadly also often hard to get a straight answer out of them, and similar things apply to most other people in the media.)

The result is, of course, that most voters sadly think that politicians are lying bastards and that you cannot trust a word they say. And of course, in that situation you might as well listen to the ones that are fun or say something different.

Also, if you think of politicians as part of the elite, you can even get the idea that if they’re all in favour of something, it must be a secret elitist plan, and so it must necessarily be in the interest of the rest of us to vote for the exact opposite.

The problem here is that Brexit will most likely be a complete disaster, a wasted decade (if not a century), a source of xenophobia and missed opportunities, and in general just the opposite of what normal people need. The elite will be fine, but it’ll be harder and dearer to go on holiday abroad, there will be fewer jobs, and nobody will stop the Tories from taking away our human rights. In this case the voters ought to have listened to the politicians and to the experts, but how were they to know they’re weren’t just spinning.

I blame the spin doctors. They created this post-factual society.

We live in a real world, however, and eventually the chickens will come home to roost.

I really worry what will happen in England once the Brexit voters realise that they’re the ones who’ll have to pay the bill. Will there be more racist attacks? Or even riots?

I just hope Scotland will get out of the UK before the Brexiters realise what they’ve done. Time is short.

The SNP Depute Leader election

Eastwood Hustings.
Eastwood Hustings.
I went along to the Eastwood Hustings last night to get a better idea about who to vote for in the SNP’s election for a new depute leader.

It was quite interesting — although unfortunately Angus Robertson couldn’t make it — and I now feel I know how to prioritise the candidates. Here are my thoughts, started with the candidate I’ll be ranking lowest and ending with my preferred depute leader:

  • Chris McEleny has some decent ideas about reforms to the party structure, but I think the other candidates have listened to these and are likely to implement them, too. However, his focus seemed very strongly to be on local elections, and with the possibility of a new independence referendum, I don’t think this is the right kind of depute for the SNP at the moment.
  • Tommy Sheppard is great and I’m really appreciative of the things he’s done during the indyref campaign and as an MP. At another point in time I can imagine he would have been my preferred candidate. However, like Chris he seemed to focus more on local elections and on the party structure, and again I’m just not sure this is the right time. Paid organisers might be a great idea, but when the next referendum campaign gets called, a lot of activity will probably shift to Yes Scotland 2 (or whatever it’ll get called), and then these organisers could almost become a hindrance.
  • Angus Robertson is one of my heroes. As somebody who’s half German myself I really admire the way he’s explaining Scottish politics in German to German and Austrian audiences — he simply says all the right things, like for instance: “Wir Schotten sind […] Weltbürger — von daher ärgert mich die deutsche Übersetzung meiner Partei: Wir sind keine Nationalisten.” He’s also doing a great job in Westminster, and I’m sure being depute leader of the SNP could help him there. Finally, his point about making sure that the SNP doesn’t lose the rural areas now that the party is becoming much more urban makes eminent sense to me. I’ll be very happy if he wins this election.
  • Alyn Smith is, however, my preferred candidate. His famous speech in the European Parliament has shown he can win over European hearts and minds, and that really matters at the moment. He also pointed out last night that his election will send a strong signal to Europe that the European Parliament matters more to Scotland than the UK Parliament in London, and he can really use the depute leader title to impress on people across Europe that he’s to be taken seriously. Finally, although he didn’t say it, I can’t help thinking that somebody who’ll lose his current job if Scotland gets chucked out of the EU will perhaps work harder to keep us there than those who won’t. Given how much staying in the EU matters to me as a New Scot from another EU member state, I’ll cast my first vote for Alyn Smith.

The United Kingdom must be competent, or it is nothing

Crew of the HRESS Nevergonnagetbuilt
Crew of the HRESS Nevergonnagetbuilt.
I grew up in Denmark with the impression that the UK had great politicians and civil servants. Very old-fashioned and conservative ones, yes, but very well-educated and competent.

Having lived here since 2002, I would now perhaps revise my earlier impression and add that they were often bastards, but at least they were competent bastards.

To a large extent, that explains why Scotland for so long was reasonably content to be governed by Westminster. The decisions they made on Scotland’s behalf might have been reactionary and horrible, but at least they were made by competent people and presented elegantly.

However, ever since the morning of Brexit, the UK has been the laughing stock of the world. Scotland is now universally regarded as having better, nicer, cleverer and more competent politicians that the rUK.

This must be the final nail in the coffin of the UK. The United Kingdom must be competent, or it is nothing.

Scotland is my home

There’s an article by yours truly on Bella Caledonia today:

It felt like the sun had broken through the heavy clouds of an unexpected storm when Nicola Sturgeon made her statement the morning after the Brexit referendum.

As a New Scot and EU migrant, her direct message to us brought a tear to my eye – and I know many Scots, old and new, felt the same. It was such a contrast to the UK politicians and media that didn’t seem to care about us.

Read the rest here.

Reverse Greenland

Lots of people are currently talking about Scotland (and perhaps Gibraltar) doing a Reverse Greenland, which means that the UK would leave but Scotland (et al.) would remain within the EU.

I don’t think that’s particularly likely for the following two reasons:

  1. A Greenlandic solution doesn’t mean that Greenland is independent in all areas where the EU is representing Denmark. Instead, Copenhagen is ultimately in charge of these areas (unless they’re devolved, of course). In other words, if Scotland achieved a Reverse Greenland solution, Westminster would for instance have to conduct their own trade policy for England while representing Scotland in Brussels at trade summits. It would lead to a lot of conflicts of interest at Westminster, and I don’t think Brussels would like this at all.
  2. As Craig Murray has pointed out, there’s no legal basis in the EU treaties for having a territory of a non-member state as a member: “The European Union is an institution which is based on treaties which have legal force. There is nothing whatsoever in any of those treaties, and nothing in any existing arrangement with any state, that makes it possible for part of a state, even a federal state, to be inside the EU, when the state itself is outside. […] The Greenland case is not in the least comparable because its relationship with the EU is based on the fact that it is an autonomous territory of an EU member state, Denmark. That is completely different from the situation of an autonomous territory of an EU non-member, which the UK will be.” I presume this means that the only way it would work would be if the UK remained a member, and England and Wales then left the EU (like Greenland). Given the size of England, I really can’t see this happening.

However, I think it’s absolutely correct and proper that Nicola Sturgeon explores all options before calling a second independence referendum.

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity

EU referendum result: Prime Minister’s statement
EU referendum result: Prime Minister’s statement.

I used to think that David Cameron was secretly trying to engineer a Leave vote. There were so many signs, e.g., (1) making demands from the EU that could never be met, (2) disenfranchising EU citizens and long-term British residents in Europe, (3) holding the referendum just after the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish elections (leading to a lot of election fatigue in these areas), and (4) also holding it during Euro 2016 (when national pride is always running high).

However, the way he didn’t do any Brexit contingency planning and simply threw in the towel now makes it clear that he just was naïve and arrogant enough to think that he’d achieve a Remain vote no matter what.

I’ve even seen it mentioned that he bragged to Juncker that he was going to achieve a 70% win for Remain, which was clearly delusional.

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity!