Tuesday 4 September 2012

Heads of Oak

21st October is a famous day in British history. On that day in 1805, the British hegemony over naval warfare which was to last for the next one hundred years and privide the foundation for the (second) British Empire was established in a famous encounter off Cape Trafalgar. Each 21st October till today, that achievement is celebrated by the Royal Navy..

This year however it is also a date of modern significance, for it is the last day of the SNP Conference, supposedly the penultimate conference before an Independence Referendum. It is nonetheless probably too much to hope that, even if Eck and Angus Robertson  get their way, the SNP Conference will end with a resounding chorus of "Hearts of Oak".

Now, let's be honest, there would still surely be no better opportunity than 21st October to exhort the SNP faithful that the legal wrangling was over, that the campaign for Independence was underway, and that when they met again, two years hence, Scotland would have voted to have thrown off the English yoke forever. The standing ovation would certainly exceed even that which Eck enjoyed when he took it upon himself to impersonate Mel Gibson many years before.

Only, eh, that's not going to happen.

For today we saw the announcement of the Scottish Government Legislative Programme for 2012-13. And yet more obfuscation by the First Minister.

For what did he actually say? That the Scottish Government's response to the consultation on an Independence Referendum would now be announced "next month", a formulation that conveniently takes one, without a broken promise, successfully past Trafalgar Day and the unfortunate necessity of meeting up with a whole lot of people who genuinely want a Referendum. Even some deluded enough to think they might win.

Now let us be clear. This is a consultation for which there was no need in the first place. The SNP consulted the electorate on whether there should be an Independence Referendum on 6th May 2011. And they supposedly, by the rules of the game, got an overwhelming endorsement for that proposition. If they had announced that they proposed to steam full ahead none of the opposition parties could have objected to that with any credibility, even if they had been minded to do so.

Instead, the Nationalists announced they would launch a consultation, which itself wouldn't even start until the January of the following year and not close until May 11th. Nonetheless, by July 18th, the Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, was able to announce that "The full analysis will be completed and published by the end of the Summer."

Now, I am as optimistic about the weather as any Scot but if the Summer hasn't ended well before October I'll be more than pleasantly surprised. Actually, by most accepted measures, I'd regard it as over already. Yet 31st October is now the new deadline, without any explanation, for the publication of the SNP's response.

What the f**k is going on here?

Eck needs to get past Trafalgar Day. For it remains his intention, in time,  to assert that "the Scottish People" are demanding a second question, no matter if the evidence of that consists of little more than the opinion of a few public sector placemen put up to it by his own office. For that is the one guarantee that he will be legally prevented from having any Referendum at all. Which he would lose overwhelmingly, and in the process destroy his Party and end his career.

But he is conscious that there are many in the SNP who don't care about that. Who want what, potentially, might be a once in a lifetime shot at glory. A bit like Eddie the Eagle at the Winter Olympics.

So he has to find a way past the SNP Conference. And delaying the Consultation response is his solution.

If he gets away with that, the SNP rank and file will have exhibited not hearts of oak but heads of oak.


  1. What the hell is all this stuff about Trafalgar Day and the "English yoke"? This is not the language of Scotland's civic nationalism. It is certainly not the language of reasoned commentary. It is the language of rabid British nationalism and an obsessive hatred whose corrosive effects on the intellect are all too apparent in Ian Smart's increasingly demented ravings.

    At the core of this there is, of course, his own personal conspiracy theory. A fixation which he cossets like Gollum with his "Precious", jealously guarding the inane notion of a plot to abandon the referendum from the terrifying onslaughts of a reality with which he now has only most tenuous of relationships.

    It is in the nature of such conspiracy theories that they tend to spawn subsidiary delusions formed of the same defective DNA as their parent. So we get this latest offshoot of Smart's central thesis. It now seems that the arch-super-villain of the comic-book world that Ian inhabits, Alex Salmond, is intent upon delaying important announcements about the referendum because he fears the Kryptonite-like effects of something called "Trafalgar Day" - which falls on 21 October. Apparently this is a portentous date in the British nationalist calendar, but nonetheless an occasion which has probably escaped the notice of most of the rest of us who are more focused on the future of Scotland than the mythologised past of the imperialist British state.

    And what prompted Ian Smart to concluded that yet more foul play was afoot? Only the mention by the First Minister that the Scottish Government's response to the referendum consultation would be published "next month", ie October. The fact that "next month" includes the 21st, along with thirty other days, is an inconvenient fact which fails to accord with the conspiracy theory and so is discarded in the name of dissonance reduction.

    As is the fact that the SNP Conference in Perth would be the ideal occasion for a statement on the details of the forthcoming referendum. A most opportune moment that the supremely pragmatic political operator Salmond is, according to the ironically named Smart, nonetheless willing to forego simply to avoid a clash with a certain alignment of celestial bodies or a religious feast-day or because Ian saw a funny-shaped cloud or... whatever fits the delusion.

    For all that this article is total crap, it is thought-provoking in its way. It gives one pause to wonder whether we should still be pointing and laughing at Ian Smart as a figure of fun. Or whether we should be discreetly and politely averting our gaze from a very troubled individual.

  2. October 21, 1774 "First display of the word ""Liberty"" on a flag, raised by colonists in Taunton, Massachusetts and which was in defiance of British rule in Colonial America."

    This is a great game. :-)

  3. Ian,

    You ask:

    "What the f**k is going on here?"

    I think you'll find that the necessary arrangements for a referendum are being put in place.


    BTW Columbus 'discovered' America on the 21st of October 1492. Which, if I remember correctly, came as something of a surprise to the Indians that had been living there for millenia. Kudos to Kurt Vonnegut Jnr.

  4. 1797 – In Boston Harbor, the 44-gun United States Navy frigate USS Constitution is launched.

    We will launch ours in 2014.

  5. This is just a weird article. Get help - seriously. Take a holiday or a sabbatical or something

  6. I have been following the referendum debate for a couple of years now and feel I have a reasonable grasp of the issues. I have no idea what you are waffling about here. I suspect, if you were sober when writing this, you are trying to confuse the issue. You have certainly confused me. Ian, you need to remember when writing your blog that you are not being paid £200 an hour to write it so you don't need to stretch it out. Keep it simple