This was first posted on Facebook on 7th September 2020, with support from my Ko-Fi network. Every time I tried to begin a post here about politics, since Thursday, I kept thinking “But David Graeber is dead.”
David Graeber died in Venice on Wednesday 2nd September. I didn’t know him personally and my sense of loss is only what I feel when a writer I admire and respect and want to keep writing is gone: there will never be any more clear sharp insightful essays and articles from him, never again. He was 59 and I am old enough to feel strongly that this is far too young to die.
I watched PMQs on Wednesday, and Boris Johnson, fresh from his holidays, reacted to Keir Starmer’s questions with an outpouring of poisonous bile. He didn’t look well, not that his illness excuses his behaviour: as John Crace noted, PMQ is essentially a kind of Westminster performance, something perhaps only political afficionados care to watch: but it is a dance with rules, a question followed by an answer, a follow-up question, a follow-up answer. Boris Johnson was interrupted mid-flow by the Speaker, who very gently and politely told him to answer the question. I don’t think I’m inventing this: Lindsay Hoyle looked worried.
This was first posted on Facebook on 22nd January 2020, with support from my Ko-Fi network.
The democratic case for a second Scottish referendum on independence is pretty clear.
In November 2014, 55.5% of those in Scotland who voted – a shade under 47% of the total electorate, given an 84.5% turnout – voted for Scotland to Remain in the UK. This following a campaign by Labour, the Tories, & the LibDems, which pushed very strongly by both direct and indirect campaigning, that if Scotland became independent, Scotland would no longer be a member of the EU.
Few English people think about the constitutional settlement of the nations of the United Kingdom. And ordinarily, this doesn’t matter at all.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has an uncodified constitution: not a single document thoughtfully and carefully produced to give a country a good start in life, but a collection of legislation and even judicial rulings made over the centuries as the British people clawed our way into being a functioning modern democracy from a starting point of feudal monarchy. The 1689 Bill of Rights (and for Scotland, the 1689 Claim of Right) is part of the UK’s constitution: so is the 1998 Human Rights Act.
I voted No.
Am I sorry, ashamed, apologetic that I voted No?
Never in this life.
I don’t think anyone should feel apologetic or ashamed or sorry for how they voted in the referendum: we came together in the largest turnout since the 1950s, after two years of intense debate. Each of us voted, and. as agreed, we abide by the majority. Everyone who voted in the referendum voted rightly, whether it was Yes or No.
If I’d known on 18th September 2014 what I know now on 18th September 2015, would I have voted differently?
This guest blog is by Stewart Robinson: “a time served Civil Servant, which should not be held against him! He is married with one daughter and lives in East Lothian, where his hobbies include overthinking everything and grinding his teeth.”
Stewart Robinson writes: During the indyref campaign I made lots of new friends, all sharing the same passion for independence, but I have to share my thoughts with my new friends in the knowledge that some of you will not wish to remain my friend after you read this post. I respect all opinions, even those I cannot agree with, but I will understand if you cannot live with mine.
To begin with, I think we must accept that we lost the vote fair and square. Yes, there was BBC bias. Yes, there were scare tactics from the Better Together side, but we also got our point across often enough. Sadly though, our case just wasn’t strong enough to convince the wavering voters to support the idea.
On 27th April 1968, 46 years ago, the Abortion Act became law, and women in the UK – except in Northern Ireland – were entitled to get safe, legal abortions. That’s half a lifetime ago. There can be few doctors or nurses still practicing who have first-hand memories of the bad old prolife days.
Every year for the past few years, on the Saturday closest to that date, SPUC stand in a line down Lothian Road, on the Sheraton Hotel side, and express their sorrow and regret for 46 years of health and wellbeing for women.
When I published Leaning Towards No, I expected reaction from Yes voters who’d been hoping I would come down on their side of the fence.
I wasn’t expecting the reaction to be so supportive of the SNP. From the reactions, [hardly anyone]* who plans to vote Yes intends to challenge the SNP’s plans to install devomax “currency union” in place of our present devolved system, and while some actively support the plan, many simply don’t see changing the SNP’s policy as possible.
*Not quite “no one”, as I initially wrote.
It therefore seems likely that – much to my annoyance and disappointment – I really don’t have any choice but to vote No. I don’t support devomax. I never did. I won’t vote Yes to have devomax replace status-quo devolution, and that’s what the Scottish Government’s White Paper says is going to happen.
Let me go through the various objections I’ve received to this, beginning with the silliest. (None of these are direct quotes from anyone, so if you recognise yourself in them, it’s purely coincidental.)
Women for Independence goes public with its website this week and will formally launch in September. “The group’s ultimate aim is to increase the number of Yes votes amongst women in the referendum”: autonomous and not affiliated to Yes Scotland, to correct the earlier opening to this blogpost.
Yes Scotland are launching a campaign on Scottish independence targeted at women: Women for Independence. The most recent YouGov poll, conducted by the Fabian society, discovered that there is a massive gender split on independence: 39% of men, 22% of women.
The traditional Scottish male way of dealing with such dissension, as we see with Ian Davidson, is to berate the women, inform us we’re wrong, and instruct us how we should change our minds. According to a founding member of the campaign, Isobel Lindsay, the plan is
“Although most of ’s supporters are not involved in party politics, all of us in this new group believe in independence for Scotland. But we also know that women are less likely to vote yes than men in 2014. We want to change that but, first of all, we want to find out what some of the issues are so we can work with women to provide the information they want and, hopefully, persuade them that voting yes makes best sense for them and their communities’ futures.”
Carolyn Leckie says:
“I love that this group is as wide as its name and that we have very diverse reasons for supporting independence, but we all agree that independence needs to be better than the status quo for women. So this group will listen to women and bring women together to organise for our own voices to be heard centre stage, for our own independence as well as that of the nation.”
Lallans Peat Worrier, an SNP blogger at an Oxford college, writes:
At some point in our lives, most of us should have encountered a moment when we were surrounded by people for whom some cherished conviction of our own was absolutely anathema. Whether representative of the wider population or not, this “common sense in the room” can be intoxicating. For an extreme instance, watch Scottish Questions at Westminster, which is now devoted to pouring vial after vial of scorn over SNP heads. In the great baying mob of MPs, the isolated Nationalist delegation’s voices are thin, reedy and invariably drowned out in a haughty chorus of gleeful insolence.
The SNP said they’d hold a referendum on independence after they’d won two elections. Salmond said, before the 2011 election, that if the SNP won the referendum would be held in the second half of the Scottish Parliament. The SNP have won two elections, and so have a democratic mandate to hold a referendum on independence, and a right – seeing as they are in government – to say when it shall be held.
That is doubtless very aggravating for Labour, who have a Westminster majority of Scottish MPs, but that’s democracy for you.
I heard that Ian Davidson, Labour MP for Glasgow South West, career Labour politician since 1978, and currently still chair of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee despite having called the SNP “neo-fascists” and having threatened a fellow MP on the committee with a “doing”, had now had a “meltdown” over exactly this issue on Newsnight Scotland on Tuesday.
So I checked it out while it was still on BBC iPlayer (till 11:29PM Tuesday 14th August, if you want to check it out yourself) but the segment is now on Youtube for all time, or at least till Google get a request to take it down.
(f) Sectional Rights (eg rural rights: a “Crofter’s Charter”)
(g) Affirmative action for women, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities (poverty, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation)
I was distracted by the Olympics, but that’s not the only reason I had trouble writing this post.
It’s because I eventually concluded I did not agree either one should be in a Constitution.
Thomas Jefferson apparently declared once that every Constitution should be rewritten every 19 years. In practice, though a Constitution may be amended, it is unlikely to be completely rewritten.
A Constitution, I think, should be intended to pin down the powers that be – the Parliament, the judiciary, the head of state and the Crown powers, the power that comes simply from being very wealthy and/or owning a lot of land. Pin them down in a way that does not permit of much wiggle-room, and pin them down in perpetuity.