Tuesday 17 June 2014

The constitutional nub

Freedom Alone
Freedom Alone (Photo credit: Martin Burns)
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has unveiled the draft Scottish Independence Bill and plans for a full public consultation on a written constitution for Scotland.

This is the sort of thing that causes unionists most discomfort. They can hope to deceive at least some people with their talk of "more powers", but they simply cannot match the promise of restoring sovereignty to the people of Scotland. The entire anti-independence effort is, in essence, a campaign to deny the sovereignty of the people of Scotland and defend the concept of parliamentary which underpins the power of the ruling elites of the British state.

We can see how uncomfortable the British nationalists are with fundamental constitutional arguments in the way they desperately try to get back to party political sniping and economic mumbo-jumbo that can easily be manipulated for their scare-mongering purposes.

Throughout the campaign I have insisted that, of course, party politics are irrelevant in the context of the referendum. But also that economic arguments are ultimately meaningless. By their very nature they can never be conclusive in the way that dishonest dullards such as Jackie Baillie imagine. Taken as a whole, the economic arguments contradict one another and cancel each other out. Put them all on the scales and the balance will not shift at all. The appearance of meaningfulness is an illusion created by leaving certain things out of the equation.

Both sides do this, of course. But in order to create the impression of impending disaster, the No campaign must set aside huge amounts of data - and rely on the media putting their thumb on the scales to favour the unionists. The Yes side has no such incentive to cheat. The Yes side need only show that the economic scales won't tip dramatically one way or the other. That is why the Yes side is so much more credible when it comes to economic arguments. They just don't have to try so hard. The scales remaining static will suit just fine.

With the party political rhetoric and economic claptrap out of the way, we can focus on what really matters. We can drill down to what the referendum is all about. Power! The referendum puts unprecedented power in the hands of the people of Scotland. The choice we face on 18 September is between holding onto that power and handing it back to British politicians at Westminster.

The British parties, the UK Government and the entire British establishment are absolutely terrified that the people of Scotland realise the power that the referendum gives them and, being aware, choose to affirm their own sovereignty rather than throw away this historic opportunity.

That is why the anti-independence campaign don't want to talk about the basic constitutional question. They don't want the people of Scotland thinking about such things. They don't want us getting ideas above our station. They sure as hell don't want us to vote Yes.

What's going on with Gordon?

UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, ...
UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, meets Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
For those of us who like to subject the comings and goings of the referendum to the kind of analysis that the British media studiously avoids, Gordon Brown represents something of a problem. There is always this nagging feeling that there must surely be something more to his utterances than is immediately apparent. One is always left groping for the sub-text and puzzling over his motives.

Perhaps we shouldn't bother. Maybe we should just take it at face value. Maybe there is no deeper meaning,

After straying out of radar range of the British nationalist line by saying that David Cameron should go head-to-head with Alex Salmond, Brown now appears to be suggesting that powers over education in Scotland should be handed over to Westminster. Why would anyone say that? It is a notion so outlandish; so contrary to Scotland's mood; so downright weird, that we naturally assume he must know something we don't know. Or that there is some subtle nuance here that escapes us. Or that he has some profound Machiavellian purpose in mind.

It may be none of these. Brown may actually be just as daft as he sounds.

Gordon Brown's PR people have put a huge effort into rehabilitating their man. They have worked hard to transform his public image from a dull, boorish, humourless failure who hasn't had an original thought since he completed toilet training into a wise, erudite, eloquent, elder statesman bestriding global politics like a haloed colossus. The spin-alchemists' remit was to take the worthless base metal of Gordon Brown and transmute it into something akin to the gold of a Tony Blair.

Credit where it's due, they've achieved wonders - largely thanks to a curiously compliant British media that seemed more than willing to collude in a bit of dubious myth-building. Brown ain't no golden colossus, that's for sure, but they've managed to shoe-horn him into a niche on the highly lucrative international speaking circuit. He still has all the charisma of landfill - but he gets money and, more importantly, attention.

It's just hard to understand why.

Doubtless those PR people would spin the elusiveness of Brown's character, personality, skills, abilities and personal qualities so as to portray him as some kind of enigma. I'm increasingly convinced that he is, in fact, a cipher. That he is every bit as shallow and vacuous as he appears.

What's going on with Gordon? Apart from some inept self-aggrandisement and pathetic attention-seeking, not much. Not much at all.