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Unionists break ranks, tell truth

Posted on February 12, 2012 by

It’s nearly always nice to get a surprise, and a couple certainly came our way from the mainstream press and blogosphere today when two of the most diehard Unionists in the field had sudden rushes of blood to the head, threw off the reins and revealed what they really thought. First up was Kevin McKenna in the Observer, who in his frustration at his FUD comrades presenting Alex Salmond with an endless series of open goals let slip this, in contravention of the constantly-expounded party line:

“There is a growing sense in this country that we must be allowed to become the masters of our own destiny, for good or for ill, and free from any Westminster interference. This has been reflected by significant increases in support for independence, two-and-a-half years before the event, in every opinion poll since the die was cast last month.”

Kevin will be getting his wrists slapped by Unionist Central on Monday, we’re certain – the official policy is that support for independence is stalled at either a quarter or a third of the electorate, depending how hardline you are. Admitting that it’s on the rise at all – far less significantly so – will doubtless have Mr McKenna in hot water, but it pales beside the weekend’s other great “Whoops, did I say that out loud?” moment.

That appeared on the blog of Labour activist and media commentator Ian Smart, talking about his appearance on today’s Sunday Politics, and the cat he let out of the bag was one concerned with this blog’s favourite urban myth, the positive case for the Union. Because what Ian did was give away the poorly-kept secret that Johann Lamont, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg, Willie Rennie, Michael Moore, Ruth Davidson and David Cameron and all the others are lying through their teeth when they constantly promise to make said case. Quoth Ian:

“There is no need to make a “positive case for the Union”. We know, for good or ill, what the Union entails. There is simply the need to make a case against “Independence”.”

We can’t exactly affect surprise at this revelation. After all, we’ve been tracking promises of the “positive case” ranging back 32 years, without a single actual sighting of it. But Smart’s unguarded moment is no less depressing for its confirmation, because it tells us that Labour plan a scorched-earth strategy for the independence debate. They will happily destroy Scotland to keep it in the Union, by running a campaign based on fear, distortion and outright lies with no thought for the state that will leave the country in after the referendum, whether the vote is Yes or No.

Two and a half years of unrelenting, poisonous negativity can only have a hideously toxic effect on the entire body politic of Scotland, because for a negative campaign to win it must catastrophically undermine the confidence of the Scottish people in their ability to run their own country successfully. (Because if you DO believe you can do that, why on Earth would you ever let the voters of another nation impose on you governments and ideologies you consistently reject?)

Bewilderingly, and infinitely depressingly, Smart believes that independence supporters want Unionists to campaign positively only as some sort of trick, that it’s a trap we’re luring our unwary opponents towards. But in fact it’s because whichever way Scotland votes in autumn 2014, we’d like to move forward as a nation that hasn’t been torn in two by years of vicious infighting, bitterness and dirty trickery.

We’re not at all sure we’d like to live in Ian Smart’s future Scotland even if it did vote for independence. Such a divided country – set implacably against itself like an Old Firm derby writ large, and crushed by an inferiority complex – would be a dark, benighted place. But maybe that grotesque vision is exactly what Smart and his Unionist allies want – to tell the Yes camp that even victory would be Pyrrhic, the winners inheriting nothing but ashes and ruins. For such a despicable worldview and strategy we hold nothing but contempt. But we’re glad to see that at least it’s finally out in the open.

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12 to “Unionists break ranks, tell truth”

  1. Indy

    But he is actually completely right. If you have two propositions – one for change, one for no change – then the onus is on the people who support change to show that it will improve peoples lives. The people who don't support change don't have to do that because they are not proposing to alter peoples lives by one iota.
    Look at it in this way.  With the invention of the internal combustion engine some people started saying hey look at these car things, they are a lot better for getting about the place than your old horse and cart. And there were another group of people who said no, these cars are dangerous, they could blow up at any moment, they'll never replace the horse and cart, let's stick with what we know. The horse and cart people didn't start suddenly making a positive case for using horses and carts. They didn't have to because people knew exactly what a horse and cart was. That mode of transport did not need to be explained or promoted. The judgement people had to make was whether the potential risks involved in travelling by car were real enough to make them stick with the horse and cart.  Would the car really blow up?  Would people really explode if they travelled more than 50 miles an hour? Etc. Of course we all know what happened with that particular debate. But the debate could not have happened any other way just as this debate cannot happen any other way.  There is no positive case for the Union.  The only argument for sticking with the Union – staying with what we know – is that the risk of independence is too high.

  2. RevStu

    I agree the onus is more on us, albeit only technically – independence is the international norm, the No camp should have to explain why it shouldn’t be for us. But nevertheless, there SHOULD be a positive case for the Union. There should be reasons why it’s good and worth sticking with in its own right, not just because the sky would fall in if we were independent. “Everything’s fine the way it is” is just about a debating position if everything IS fine, but the UK is currently bankrupt and rotten to the core.

    That’s why everyone keeps promising to make a positive case. The fact that you or I can’t figure it out what the heck it might be is neither here nor there, because we’re in favour of independence and we don’t need to make that argument. But if we get nothing but scaremongering negativity for the next two years it will poison Scotland regardless of who wins, and it horrifies me that Unionists would do that to the country they claim so stridently to love and be proud of just to get their own way.

  3. molly

    Sorry Rev Stu,when you look tonight at Greece and see politics and the consequence of politicians actions ,where 'people' come a poor second in order to support a house of cards, I don't think there is anything that would surprise me regarding our Independence referendum. 
    There has been no recognition that IF the outcome was no,how any of the Unionists would reconcile a nation then again perhaps that is the point.If I was being really cynical,I could offer the opinion perhaps some Unionists really do not have the foresight but I am certainly convinced that a 'scorched earth policy' would not be beyond some without the insight to consider the consequences.

  4. Indy

    But there really isn't a positive case – the closest they have managed to come to it is that somehow Scotland staying in the Union will show solidarity with non-Tory voters in England.  If we leave we will be abandoning them. And that is clearly preposterous.
    I don't myself believe that there will be a hugely negative c ampaign against independence because they know that if what they say sounds completely exaggerated most people will just think well that's obviously crap. So while I think it will be a negative campaign for sure I think it will be a mildly negative campaign, It will be along the lines of the current tactics of saying the SNP need to explain this, that and the next thing.  Which of course gives us the opportunity to do just that.
    But I do think that there is something very important in what Ian Smart has said.  Because what he means by saying that there is no positive case for the Union is that there is no PROGRESSIVE case for the Union. And by definition then the case against independence is a conservative one. There will be a lot of people on the unionist left who feel uncomfortable with that.

  5. douglas clark

    It is not exactly as easy as all that. There are certain things that Scotland has tried to preserve or even improve like the NHS or free tertiary education, all within the constraints of the settlement.  These were cornerstones of the post war settlement. Westminster wishes to pursue other avenues for service delivery away from free at the point of delivery. We don't.
    It is the Union that has moved away from that settlement, not us.
    Clearly there are also things like nuclear disarmament that have a higher resonance with most Scots than their English counterparts. That democratic deficit was never addressed.
    In certain areas we have sort of drifted apart. As one partner wishes to maintain the relationship then it is up to them to tell us what benefits there are to us.
    What I am trying to say is that the status quo is not an option for the vast majority of Scots. If someone wants to make the case for the Uniont, then it actually is for them to make the case to us. Perhaps there is something that can be said, some form of words that would turn the light bulb on and make all these folk go 'wait a minute, I never thought of that.'  The lack of such a clear cut slam dunk is, IMHO, quite telling.

  6. RevStu

    "I don't myself believe that there will be a hugely negative campaign against independence because they know that if what they say sounds completely exaggerated most people will just think well that's obviously crap."

    You didn't see (to pluck but a single example) this, then?

    I think we're going to get a LOT of absolutely hysterical, ridiculous drivel between now and 2014, because we've had it already and we've barely even started. Scotland to pay for a new Trident base in England, anyone?

    Losing Trident is the thing that really terrifies the UK government (and opposition) above all, and for something on that scale – effectively the UK's entire standing on the world stage – there are no limits they won't stoop to and no dirty tricks they won't try. As we get nearer the time, if it looks like there's a genuine chance of a Yes vote, we'd better be expecting and ready for a real onslaught of no-holds-barred weapons-grade nastiness. Because one will be coming.

  7. RevStu

    "What I am trying to say is that the status quo is not an option for the vast majority of Scots. If someone wants to make the case for the Uniont, then it actually is for them to make the case to us"

    This is a very important point. The Union != the status quo. If the Unionists stand on the status quo I think they'll definitely lose – they have to make a case for change too, it's just a case for a more devolved Scotland within the UK. That’s the positive case – “Within the Union you can have (nearly) all the powers you want, with none of the trauma!” – but it’s also the one they’ve all set their faces hard against, because they genuinely appear to be completely thick.

  8. Helen

    The politicians almost to a person are neoliberal in ideology.  OK. That's all business. Fine.  I'll treat it as they would have us treat everything then. The Union is a contract, a business contract and no more.  It's time to renew that business contract.  And like all good clients in this neoliberal world, not a citizen I'd like for the Union to pitch me their proposal. 
    Let me say this first before you busy yourself preparing such a proposal.  I am not satisfied in any way with the service this Union has so far provided me.  I am very likely to take by business eslewhere.

  9. Shodan

    If you have a couple and their marriage has problems, the wife says to the husband "what is the positive case for staying in this marriage" and the husband replies "The onus is on you because you're the one talking about change!".

    That's a swift march to a divorce by any measure. Even worse if he starts threatening and scaring her with stories.
    This marriage has lasted 300 years. Long enough to come up with a positive case. The elected government and leadership has no idea why we should stay together and has yet to live up to the promises of making the case that they should know off by heart before even getting in power. That alone should be sending up red flags.

  10. Colin Dunn

    RevStu says:
    "This is a very important point. The Union != the status quo."
    Except that it needs to be made clear to every potential NO voter what the status quo means. It doesn't actually mean the status quo, but where Westminster is taking the UK – selling off the NHS, slashing welfare, making the rich richer, investing billions in a Trident replacement, repatriation of Scotland's devolved political powers to Westminster, and, if my eyes don't deceive me, potential conflicts in Iran and the Falklands.
    We need people to realise that voting NO means going backwards, not retaining some rose-tinted vision of the good old days.

  11. Clawd Baws

    Scotland has grown immeasurably in confidence even over the last twenty years.  I remember a time not so long ago that to even admit you might quite fancy independence at some point was enough to get you labelled as a nut job.  Well that's certainly not the case now.  The fact is the country has changed and the more negative the unionists get the more Scots will see through it to what it really is: fear.  What the yes campaign really have going for it though is the fact that it does have a positive vision of the future.  That in itself is very attractive to most folk.  If the unionists can't make a positive case (never mind the technicalities) they'll lose.  But whatever happens I don't believe Scotland will go back to the dark ages: independence is inevitable the only question is timescale.

  12. steven luby

    Independence does appear to be inevitable and remaining informative seems to be the S.N.P'S policy. Whether or not the path in laying down the policies of Scotland and Westminster side by side could be regarded as the way ahead I have my doubt's.
    There may be some who would view this as patronizing regardless of the opposition's patronizing stance. What I believe is when the opportunity arises,when the questions come thick and fast then would be a good time to use this tactic.
    But,how does an orginisation remain outside of old style political ranting's without biting? Well,it does'nt.What they have to challange are the people,institutions and the fact's that are held in the S.N.P'S own hands.If anyone can have a point to make and they themselves challange that very point then come up with the answer,fact's and truth have a large place in everyday life. It's not the politicians of the Union supporter's that we have to win the arguement with,they will change their mind or not.
      No one know's what the outcome will be at the next election after the referendum.Scotland at the moment does not know what will be negotiated for Scotland to work with. So I believe the area of contention will focus on this period after the referendum, eventually.It's the main grey area surrounding Independence,the not knowing what the economy with oil+gas etc will we be left with!!
    The knee jerk reactions remain in full swing,but with at least 2 year's left before the vote I hope,believe and near pray that enough time remain's for the people of Scotland to learn the truth of what this country has in potential of not only themselves but all their children to follow.

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