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Well, that’s that all settled, then

Posted on February 08, 2012 by

Keen followers of the “is it or isn’t it?” debate surrounding the legality of an independence referendum conducted without “permission” from Westminster have had much to digest recently. The much-travelled Dr Matt Qvortrup wrote a piece for the Herald yesterday [paywall] averring that – if we might strip it down to its barest bones – the legal status was actually quite strong, but didn’t really matter anyway as political reality would trump boring, nitpicky old law.

Unsurprisingly, this enraged Lallands Peat Worrier, who took several of the good Doctor’s assertions as something akin to a professional slight and launched a stinging rebuke in uncharacteristically blunt and earthy terms. Meanwhile, the UK Constitutional Law Group (comprising a number of distinguished academics) published a paper more in keeping with the Peat Worrier’s usual loquacious style, thoughtfully analysing both the legalities and the political ramifications and concluding that everyone really needed to knock their heads together and deliver the requisite mechanisms to Holyrood with the least possible delay.

Support for this view came from the Electoral Reform Society Scotland, who offered the opinion [Herald paywall link] that Holyrood should be given the explicit legal right to conduct the referendum by the UK government without any strings attached. Indeed, perhaps surprisingly the organisation went even further in suggesting that the Electoral Commission would not – despite the strenuous and sustained demands of the Unionist parties – be the appropriate body to oversee the vote.

Finally, blogosphere newcomer the Scottish Times revealed that the Scottish Democratic Alliance (yep, a new one on us too) has asked the Council of Europe to step in and monitor the referendum, fearing interference from Westminster that would contravene the UN Charter on the right of peoples to self-determination.

Pressure from impartial quarters does seem to be building on the UK Government to confer a Section 30 order on Holyrood swiftly and without conditions, although as we saw with the blunt refusal last May to enhance the Scotland Bill with measures commanding cross-party support in Edinburgh, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll listen. But with the SNP having added 2000 new members in a single month since David Cameron’s initial intervention in the debate, perhaps they should.

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40 to “Well, that’s that all settled, then”

  1. Morag says:

    The Scottish Democratic Alliance has been around for a while, at least as a web site.  Whether it's more than half-a-dozen guys and  some html code is debatable though.  It's James Wilkie again, he of the "Scotland-UN-Committee" fantasy, which periodically sends ripples through the more gullible sections of the blogosphere by claiming to have lobbied the Council of Europe into forcing Blair to pass the Scotland bill in 1997.  (He provides evidence of having petitioned various bodies, but no evidence of having influenced these bodies into doing anything more than sending a polite acknowledgement.)
    This looks as if it might be quite a good move, in that it hasn't come from the Scottish government so it doesn't look like them crying to teacher.  On the other hand, the Scottish government may have been planning to do exactly that at a later, strategically opportune moment, so let's hope he hasn't just shot Salmond's fox.

  2. Erchie says:

    SDA used to be Scottish Enterprise Party
    Not sue about their fixation with naming themselves after inward investment bodies but they are right wingers
    Scottish Times is the blog of the fellow who flounced off Newsnet last year with much acrimony and confusion

  3. Shodan says:

    I've known about the SDA for a while now. They have some unusual ideas for Scottish or British politics. Interesting that they've decided to stick their oar in as they've been quite quiet up until now. Perhaps it's simply that they've been overlooked or not heard when they did speak out and this is the first real chance they've had as a minor group yet to see election or be heard. Grabbing the chance while they see it and also ensuring their future and Scotland's as they desire it. As they are so minor and new it's hard to be certain on their policies or track records, but they might be one to watch in a post-indepedence environment, which they seem to be expecting or hoping for as their chance for power. The material on their site now seems to be aimed that way, assuming there will be successful independence vote and then new reform debates restructuring everything from the ground up. Certainly we'll be needing ideas and open debate about what to do and how to structure everything seeing as we'll have the closest we could hope for to a blank slate to work with.
    @John White
    I dearly hope that sorry bunch try to come to Scotland as part of their campaign. Should be another 2000 new SNP members out of that.
    Not surprised to hear there's so many new members. A lot of people I know seem to be joining up, even those who previously ignored politics or were avid readers of the anti-SNP and hardcore unionist media. The lies are wearing thin and people are sickened.
    Even the Labour councillors are turning to SNP. A Labour councillor in Glasgow converted to SNP recently and now in the past few days another councillor who left Labour has joined the SNP. How many others will be heading to the good ship SNP for a future in more pleasant waters?

  4. Shodan says:

    Is that where Scottish Times came from? What was the falling out about? I saw someone mention that they had an email from them telling them that NNS was shutting down too. Seems like a divorce almost as messy as the Scotland-England one.

  5. Morag says:

    Scottish Enterprise Party, thanks, Erchie.  I knew the name had been different, but I coudn't call to mind what it had been.  Bunch of right-wingers indeed but I don't think there's many of them, and they're not exactly the Tea Party either.  I see James Wilkie as a harmless eccentric.

  6. An Duine Gruamach says:

    The Peter Dow of the right…

  7. Hazel Lewry says:

    The SDA are the group which harping on about a "written constitution" an have already started to write one to suit themselves.
    The fact that it includes a paragraph about setting up martial law etc in an " state emergency" (on whose interpretation of said emergency, may I ask?) is to me concerning. Not so much as empowering people, but setting them up for gradual disempowering and back to being the lackies we were pre independence… IMHO, and by gods I've been accused of being humble – not! 

  8. Morag says:

    These guys have form in setting themselves up as unelected representatives of Scotland.  Look into that risible "Scotland-UN-Committee" stuff.  However, we're a democracy.  They won't be able to do anything without a democratic mandate, and I seriously doubt their ability to get that.

  9. Erchie says:

    Not entirely sure what happened with the Scottish Times and NNS. I got the email to
    Firstly we were told, untruthfully, that the server had switched.
    I think I signed up to the "new" server, which may be where he got my email from, but if it was there, or from NNS's own database, in either way the email was either taken under false pretences, or just lifted
    So, let's just say I am less than trusting of Mr Porter
    As to the SDA, sounds like they're a couple of mates with a few accounts mentioning themselves a lot

  10. Erchie says:

    Sounds like this SDA folk are chancers at best. I wouldn't mind seeing a piece on them if someone knew enough to write one

  11. Morag says:

    Hmmm.  What really put me off was an exchange on the old Herald comments threads, back when they were as open and as shambolic as the Scotsman's still are.  We had the usual procession of gullible readers lauding James (I'm not sure where the doctorate comes from, or if it's honorary) Wilkie over his claim to have been instrumental in forcing Blair to pass the 1997 Scotland bill against his own wishes.  It's an attractive conspiracy theory, so it tends to appeal.
    I tried to track down the facts, and could find absolutely nothing beyond Wilkie's own claims.  He has lodged a bundle of miscellaneous documentation with the National Library in Edinburgh, which he claims proves his case.  Of course this "the documentation is held by the National Library" riff sounds impressive, but the National Library will hold anything anyone gives it.  I could lodge the minutes of my knitting club there if I wanted to.
    The list of documents is available, and trawling through that it seems to consist of background documentation (such as a copy of the Treaty of Union), documents written by the Scotland-UN-Committee themselves, vague messages of support from the odd "great-and-good" (think Salmond's letter to Fred the Shred here), and a couple of letters from the bodies being petitioned apparently just acknowledging receipt of the petitions.  Gems include a map of the route taken by the members on their way to Strasbourg, and a photo of the group at the airport.  So we know they actually went!
    Conspicuous by its absence was any hint of a suggestion that the UN or the Council of Europe ever did anything but acknowledge receipt of the correspondence and file it.  No evidence at all that Tony Blair was ever pressurised by these bodies to remedy the Scottish democratic deficit.
    I challenged Wilkie on the Herald thread to provide evidence that he had actually had any influence on events.  He became abusive, telling me to go to Edinburgh and read the documents.  I suggested that the internet was a more appropriate place to display such things, in this day and age, and asked again for some independent evidence of any influence such as he claimed.  He then began to cyber-stalk me, trying to find out my real identity, and getting it spectacularly wrong.  He decided I was a trainee or junior journalist trying to get a scoop, and said this could make my career if I wrote the story.  He also somehow decided I was personally acquainted with Alistair Campbell.
    It was all very unedifying, and it's no loss to the world that the Herald pulled all these comments pages years ago.  But it left me with a nasty taste in my mouth regarding James Wilkie, and a healthy distrust of his habit of appointing himself an unelected spokesman for Scotland.  I also recall him declaring that the whole story would hit the press quite soon, so watch out, he would be vindicated.  This was about 2007 or 2008.  So far, nothing.
    I think he's a poseur with delusions of adequacy.  I think he's a loose cannon, and I just hope he hasn't done and doesn't do anything that will derail the SNP strategy for the referendum campaign.

  12. bobby mcpherson says:

    are the SDA scottish \times and liberty ecosse all part of the same group?

  13. bobby mcpherson says:

    I just ask because sda released a bulletin on the Europe overseeing indy ref issue and immediately it was "distributed" by Liberty Ecosse and the scottish Times on Facebook……

  14. Shodan says:

    Does sound like I should be wary of the SDA lot and their crowd or associates.
    Quite a story, Morag! With that the chief of them sounds really bad. I too would be very suspicious of them in that situation. You'd think he would be eager to show you all the documents proving his case if he was keen for others to know about it all. He should be almost falling over himself to gain another recruit to spread the word, not stalk or abuse someone. I'm now wondering who really makes up this group and what their true aims are.
    You might be right if this lot are using the "sockpuppet" method of increasing their online presence. Lots of faces all reflecting upon each other and making it look like larger groups.

  15. Erchie says:

    If they were open we could welcome them to the debate, but as long as the SDA hide, try and puff theselves up and use sockpuppetry they can do the other thing

  16. Morag says:

    James Wilkie does post here and there under his own name.  I've seen him recently, again in the Herald comments pages.  He tends to pontificate loftily about something, then go away again.  I think he's quite elderly.

  17. Morag says:

    I'm remembering a bit more now, it's a pity in a way that exchange was deleted.  I don't think he's used to people questioning his claims.  What I've just remembered is that he threatened me with legal action for defamation, for questioning the veracity of the claims he was making.
    Nice chap.

  18. TYRAN says:

    There's not a lot in NNS and ST story. One pushed it in another direction. Brought in writers and big content. Then tried a grab to assume control as others didn't like that idea, which others then outmaneuvered and froze him out. Server switch I think had truth, which would of frozen out everyone indefinitely except his team. 
    So ST creation is where NNS was heading. Had access to key parts as was pretty much running the site at that time. To get email addresses is no problem. Just a case of accessing menu. You'd know this type of thing if experience in running an online shop for instance. You couldn't access passwords. IMO took a dump of contacts during attempted switchover.

  19. Erchie says:

    I thought the worse of this at the time re email. As it is I think people set themselves up at "his" NNS thinking it was the real one and those are the email addresses he was using.
    Atill wrong, but slightly less so

  20. Robert Peffers says:

    The SDA and the  Scotland UN-Committe are not the same organization, They do, though, share several members. Neither, one is just a handful of numpties and should not be regarded as such. Their influance has had effects in the past. If truth be told, no matter what the final result of the Scottish Government's referendum, the ONLY way Scotland can become a real independent country rests in the eyes of other European, and World Nations. These must accept any independent country before it can join them. Thus we will need the backing of the Council of Europe, The EU and the UN before we can become a World nation in our own right.

  21. Morag says:

    Testing… I can't seem to get posts through on some articles.

  22. Morag says:

    Well, that's odd.
    I had posted to point out that there was a big stushie about this on Newsnet Scotland, in the comments under an article they published by Wilkie, which repeated the usual claims but still with no evidence.  Posters split into the starry-eyed ones hailing Wilkie as the saviour of the nation, and the suspicious ones who thought some proof might be nice.  The former group not happy with the latter group.
    Wilkie himself took great exception to being asked for evidence of his claims, and seems to have become even more bombastic than before.  He is now demanding to be addressed as "Professor Doctor".  A poster linked to an extraordinary piece of puffery which seems to have been written by Wilkie himself.  I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

  23. Shodan says:

    Testing too…
    I thought I was simply moderated out of the comments (fair enough, not my house), but seeing as Morag mentioned it I thought I'd try too as none of mine went through.

  24. RevStu says:

    I haven't moderated any comments by either of you. The way it works here is that a user's first comment has to be approved, then any subsequent ones are automatically allowed immediately. So you should never have to wait to see a comment appear – if it doesn't, the only possible reason is that Akismet has determined it to be spam for some reason. (It dislikes stuff with lots of links in it, so that may be a possibility.)

    If I moderate something, you’ll still see it first, it’s just that I’d delete it later if I took exception to it. Which I only do in the case of outright trolling, libel or suchlike – as you’ll see in the House Of Lords thread, I have no problem with people disagreeing with me, even rudely. This isn’t Labour Hame or Better Nation – you really have to go some to get moderated here.

  25. Shodan says:

    [duplicate post removed]

  26. Shodan says:

    Testing again…
    I've tried commenting there and it didn't appear. Maybe some quirk with the host system?

  27. RevStu says:

    Just looked and found a post by each of you in the Spam folder. No idea why, but have told Akismet they weren’t spam, so hopefully it should remember.

  28. Shodan says:

    Very weird indeed. Not sure what is going on with the comments system. Maybe some issue at my (and Morag's) end?
    I saw the comments section you mentioned, Morag. Quite a bit of back and forth there, but the evidence for the claims made over the years doesn't seem like it's going to appear any time soon, despite one half asking for it. A few seem ready to defend him no matter what, treating him as a hero and act outraged that people would dare even ask for some proof and try to find out who this person really is now that they are stepping into the limelight.
    There seem to be a lot of their sockpuppets or their handful of supporters on NNS frequently posting links to their sites and material and replying to each other on the subject with the same patterns and material. Often in somewhat suspect ways to get visitors or googlerank and possibly get around the moderators who would normally stop that sort of advertising/spamming. I've encountered enough of such sneaky behaviour before to know the smell of it.
    I am surprised that a news site would allow someone to post something like that piece with no proof or even a clear disclaimer from the site to warn the readers. It's simply presented as fact and the readers (and some seemingly have) are expected to take it all as gospel. A risky thing to do and I think it can undermine a news site that is trying to give us a better source and quality than the woeful mainstream Scottish media. The last thing we need is to muddy the waters or for the new media to fall into the same traps or habits as the old.
    This Wilkie is sounding to me like the infamously touchy game creator "Doctor" Derek  Smart (and a few others I've seen). I wouldn't care about these characters or incidents if the carbuncle didn't pop up right where I can't avoid seeing it or it appears where it can potentially do harm, as is the case with this one and his fanclub if they manage to unjustly worm their way in and start claiming credit to build up some undeserved support.

  29. Shodan says:

    Cheers, RevStu. Must have been something that upset it or triggered the filter. Please delete the duplicates and this as I'm making the place untidy. 😉

  30. Morag says:

    I hadn't thought about the sockpuppet thing – I'm too innocent I guess.  I have some doubts that there are very many of that SDA group – historially it seems just to have been James and a couple of mates with delusions of grandeur.  However, considering the number of creduloids prepared to suggest raising statues to the guy on nothing more than his own say-so, and their outraged fury against anyone with the temerity to doubt the story, I suppose he may have gathered a core of groupies.

  31. Morag says:

    RevStu, I posted on the "Positive case for the Union update #13" article on Friday, from work.  Just a short post, no links, saying that losing 6,000 jobs related to Faslane wasn't necessarily such a disaster if these people cold be found suitable alternative employment.  It didn't appear and I thought IE was playing up on my office computer.

    I tried to re-post the same thing from my home computer in the evening, but again the post didn't appear.  I may have tried more than once.  I knew it wasn't consistent with your site policy, and thought it was a problem my end.  But if the same has happened to Shodan, it's odd.

    I posted a short post earlier today which appeared, then that post about Wilkie on NNS, which didn't.  That's when I posted the "testing" post, because I was confused.  It got through, and immediately afterwards a re-post of the Wilkie thing did too.

  32. Morag says:

    OK, another post, three tries, didn't get through.  Bizarre.

  33. Morag says:

    Tried a fourth time, got a message saying it was a duplicate post – but it hasn't appeared at all.
    Could this be anything to do with pasting text into the post from the clipboard?  I think I detect a correlation.  But pasted text isn't always rejected.

  34. Shodan says:

    I've dealt with people who were paid to do nothing but sockpuppeting and viral marketing for the commercial sector. I've seen it from several points of view – swatting them and their pollution when managing a site, seeing them as a visitor or user on others, discussing it with bosses and managers and their usage of such tactics (part time or professional) and even talking it over with marketing company employees happily discussing these tactics and costs. It's far from everyone but sometimes even surprisingly small and niche companies do it with varying degrees of subtlety and effectiveness.  I don't doubt that the political arena is just as savvy to these methods as the business one. The main difference between the two is that with the political side you naturally get people willing to spend hours a day doing it for free out of their beliefs or admiration for some political figure, rather than demanding payment in cash. You'll see it everywhere from forums to comment sections on blogs and news sites to Wikis, the latter of which is notoriously bad for these types trolling their selected pages and topics constantly in their attempt to maintain it as they wish it to be. You can't be too suspicious when it comes to these things.
    I expect as things get hotter in the debate in the later stages we will see more of it from various camps. Some might even use paid professionals to help "market" their point of view. The crossover of talent and ideas from business marketing and politics was going on long ago. It pays to have some healthy skepticism and a dose of cynicism .
    On the topic of the recent oddities trying to comment through the spam filter I've tried writing comments with nothing pasted and were refused and had ones that I used pasted text with typing a word or two different and it went through. Short or long posts too. Must be the spam filter getting cranky. Hopefully it will settle down. Maybe some word combination sets off a red flag warning and then it gobbles up other posts, assuming it is also going to be spam following it. Perservere and maybe it will sort itself out.

  35. RevStu says:

    I have no idea what's going on with Akismet. I've told it the latest blocked messages aren't spam, can only hope it catches on soon – it seems to be only you two it’s objecting to. I've been using it for over two years without problems, and the alternative is literally thousands of spam comments.

  36. Shodan says:

    Fair enough, RevStu. I've no idea why the filter has a grudge with us two all of a sudden but I'm sure I'll manage to work around it. I'll have to remember to copy and paste any comments into a text document before trying to post it in case it eats it.  I'd suggest Morag does the same. I'd rather not see the place full of dodgy medicine vendors, get rich quick schemes or loan adverts, even if it means putting up with a paranoid spam filter. It might catch on eventually anyway or whatever has put it on high alert might step down.

  37. Morag says:

    It's very strange it disallowed posts from me from two completely separate computers.  More as if it's the username than the IP or anything like that.

  38. Shodan says:

    Likewise, Morag. I was wondering if perhaps someone has been spamming on Akismet maintained sites using these names and so anyone with that name is given a finer sifting than normal?

  39. Morag says:

    That's quite ironic as I don't use my real name for most of my internet commenting.  Just this time, I did!

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