Saturday 10 June 2023

A suggested letter

I have a friend, Andrew Nicol who is, or at least was, a Scottish novelist. I however knew him in another capacity, as a political journalist. Away back, I was so determined to get him to write a sequel to his novel, "If you are reading this then I'm already dead" that I wrote the first chapter for him myself. 

It did not persuade him and since then I have abandoned literary pastiche. 

But tonight I am writing again in the name of a Scottish novelist who, no disrespect to Andy, is of somewhat greater literary renown, J.K. Rowling.

It is not an attempt at the eighth Harry Potter novel or even an attempt to finally, and surely, get Strike and Robin together.

It is an simple suggested letter. Written by J.K., who I have never met, to two people I do know. One by reputation only but the other since I "knew his faither".  Copied in to one of my best and surest comrades. Enough introduction

Hogwarts Tower 


11th June 2023   

Dear Anas and Keir,

I trust this finds you both well.

As a long since supporter of the Labour Party and opponent of Scottish Independence, I was delighted to learn of the forthcoming by-election in Rutherglen and Hamilton West. offering a significant opportunity to strike a blow against the SNP, and have been thinking of what I might do to assist.

With due modesty, I would clearly be in a position to offer you a substantial financial contribution, as I have done in the past,  but I understand that money is unlikely to be an issue here. So I thought I might offer something more. 

While I never sought this, I appreciate myself that I have become something of an "international celebrity", My appearances on public platforms attract disproportionate, in my opinion, attention. But they nonetheless do. So my suggestion therefor is that I should make such an appearance at a public meeting to support of your, indeed our, candidate in Rutherglen. I would propose to say no more than encouraging Scotland to play its part in removing the Tories and securing a Labour Government

The event would need to be managed but, with due modesty, would be likely to appeal not only to many members of the local electorate, the important people here, but indeed to a much wider national, indeed international audience. But in some ways ignore the latter. The former are the key players in what I appreciate is likely to be a significant contest. If I can add but a few votes to our tally, I would be privileged to do so. Again, with due modesty, I think that is a role I might play. 

So, subject to my own commitments, I am at your disposal to speak at a place and time of your choosing.

I appreciate that this offer is in itself likely to be of assistance to our cause so I have taken the liberty of copying this letter to the Press Association. 

With every best wish,

See you in Rutherglen,


To: Anas Sarwar MSP

The Right Honourable Sir Keir Starmer MP

cc. Jackie Baillie MSP. 


Sunday 4 June 2023

Is it over?

The polls remain stubbornly good for the SNP. Yes, you read that correctly. Their vote has taken a dent but it has not collapsed. Were there to be a Holyrood election tomorrow they would almost certainly remain the largest single Party, albeit, even with the assistance of their gerrymandering colleagues in the Greens, somewhere short of an Independence majority at Holyrood. Not that this matters anyway for the road to Independence does no run through Holyrood alone. 

Nicola Sturgeon's "brave" decision to ask the Supreme Court to deliver their conclusion to that effect expressly was her parting gift to the SNP. That and a campervan.

It has to be conceded that the prospect of Independence has been a leitmotif through Scottish Politics since 2011. Cameron thought to kill it by conceding a referendum but the Nats came closer in that event than anybody ever considered likely and, in its aftermath, rolled up the large but significant losing minority behind their banner in a formidable wrecking ball. Wrecking the old Scottish Labour Party, ludicrously complacent in its sense of entitlement, in the process.

But in truth 2014 took place in just about the most favourable circumstance possible for the SNP. They could choose a single year in the recent past (not the one immediately before the referendum right enough) to make a just about plausible case that independence would not inevitably lead to the slashing of public expenditure. They could insist they'd keep the Pound Sterling against all evidence to the contrary and portray UK denials of this as "just one more piece of evidence" of English perfidy. They succesfully created the ludicrous illusion that Independence could be grafted on to Devolution with little more than the expenditure of, in Government terms, small change. And as to the border, well if there was effectively no border between the UK and France, since both were in the EU. why would there possibly be a border between Scotland and England? 

But the real genius was not in carrying that off that in 2014, it was in getting people to ignore the fact that within two years this was all proved to be nonsense. That to borrow the phrase of Theresa May "Nothing had changed,"

But never mind that, it also ignored the not unimportant fact that there had been a referendum! And they had lost. Not narrowly, as they insisted, but quite decisively in a binary choice. And that they themselves quietly conceded that the reason they had needed the "Edinburgh Agreement" to have a referendum at all was in the second word there. And that prospect no longer existed. 

But all credit to the smoke and mirrors that has kept this on the road. Even, to some extent, still is. 

But I think this is all coming to an end. That's not just based on the polling or that Useless has nothing like the political skills of Salmond or Sturgeon, although patently he doesn't. It is simply that they have nowhere to go. 

When Alex Salmond set up his vanity project of the ALBA Party, its main selling point was that the SNP, through their elected representatives should be doing "more" to advance independence. There has however been a deathly silence as to what that more might be. The only substantive proposal of any sort seems to have been the suggestion that The Stone of Destiny shouldn't have been sent to London for the Coronation. I'm not entirely sure what this, even if carried off, would have achieved?  In truth, neither are they. "You can't have our Stone unless we have another referendum?" You are reminded of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. "Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government."

There is nothing more that can be done.  The strange period of Scottish politics since 19th September 2014 is over. Scottish Parliament elections cannot and will not constantly be run as gigantic opinion polls on whether the Scottish Government should write a letter demanding to have another independence referendum. Westminster elections in Scotland likewise. Devolved Scottish Parliament elections are about who should govern devolved Scotland. In health, education, transport etc. etc. does anybody think that is currently being done well? And Westminster elections are about who should govern the UK. That will, at 18 month intervals, over the next three years, become apparent in spades. 

So it is over. The rest is just process.